By Anna Wu ’16
International trips that were scheduled to take place over the mid-winter break in February got caught in a whirlwind of last minute deadlines, cancellations and confusion. Trips to Spain and Berlin were cancelled and uncancelled because of Superintendent Michael Prayor’s worries about student and faculty safety.
After the terrorist attack on the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, on January 7 and another threat of a terrorist attack on Belgium in late January, Prayor believed it best to cancel all international trips. The plans stayed cancelled for a weekend before Prayor announced that he would allow the trips if the Department of Education’s legal counsel could get the students and parents to sign a consent form stating that the school board would not be held responsible for anything that would happen on the trips.
Teachers and students rejoiced at the news, unaware of what was to come. A few days later it was announced that the trips would have to be cancelled yet again because the consent form never got written.
Just a week before the trips were set to occur, advisors begrudgingly cancelled all flights and events they had planned. Only the next day, teachers found out that because many parents had called the superintendent’s office to complain, Prayer declared the trips to be back on.
“I was very upset about the trip cancellation,” said Najah Thurston ’16, a student who was meant to go to Berlin during February break. “I was really looking forward to going to Germany and seeing my host, Lucie, so it was a huge disappointment to find out I wouldn’t be able to see her.”
Thurston was one of the twenty-five students and five trip advisors who were disappointed with the crazy back and forth cancellations. The five staff members overseeing the trip, Mr. Sean Sharpe, Ms. Gloria Aklipi, Mr. Eugene Resnick, Ms. Angelique Alexander, and Ms. Jenessa Kornaker, did everything in their power to make the trip to Berlin happen, but ultimately the foreign exchange trip to Berlin was called off.
“It’s understandable why the trips got cancelled in the first place but not how [Prayor] handled the whole situation,” said Ms. Gloria Aklipi, teacher and head advisor for the foreign exchange trip to Berlin. “To me that was very unprofessional to cancel a trip then say it’s not cancelled then to cancel it again and say it’s not cancelled again.”
Ms. Aklipi stated the Berlin students who were participating in the exchange are still coming to New York in April. She is hoping to arrange a trip to Berlin next February for the students who did not get to go this year.
However, the people going to Spain were lucky enough to be able to still go during February break despite all the last minute changes. The advisors for the trip to Spain, Ms. Suzanna Sala, Ms. Jessica Villafane, and Mr. Max Pinsky, were able to book last minutes flights, inform all parents and students, rebook hotels and tours in a rush to get things back up.
Ms. Sala, as a first time organizer for an international trip, said she was overwhelmed by the conflicting information she was getting. She felt helpless because she had to respect the decisions of the school board but at the same time she had a responsibility to her students to give them the trip they were promised.
After the first cancellation, the advisors for Spain made plans to visit areas inside the United States which were allowed by the DOE, such as California. Ms. Sala stated that though the trip still would’ve been fun, it wouldn’t have made up for Spain. The appeal of the trip from the very beginning was the international experience.
The advisors along with the six students attending the trip were glad that things worked out and that their money and preparation did not go to waste.