Cancellation of all Overseas GCW’s
The Student’s Perspective
February 14, 2020
As we all know by now, on Tuesday night the decision was made to cancel all overseas global citizenship week (GCW) trips. In recent discussions with International SOS (ISOS) regarding international travel ISOS mentioned that “airports (are) on heightened alert, quarantine, greater travel restrictions and travel disruptions are increasing possibilities at this time.” Based on this advice the school decided to cancel overseas GCW trips even though “infectious disease experts seeing a minimal risk of a student or faculty member contracting the coronavirus”. The school was concerned if one were to exhibit any cold or flu-like symptoms while away, a risk of quarantine on overseas trips could be a possibility. If a student or teacher were to be quarantined it would be particularly worrying to the student, family members, friends and faculty. To avoid these types of complications all students have now been reassigned to new trips and will get refunds once the calculations have been made.
This has obviously been a large shock to many families planning for their kids to travel overseas, many buying supplies and clothes to travel to different climates, and excited to gain a new experience. Through a survey, PantherNation collected some of the initial emotions felt by juniors and seniors ready to go on their last GCW or their last one before the changes set to happen in the ‘20-’21 school year to many trips. This survey was anonymous so students weren’t afraid to tell us how they truly felt. Here’s what they had to say:
Students felt “upset”, “sad, disappointed, and stressed” in the early stages of the announcement. “Slightly annoyed but understanding”, was how many responses stated that they agreed it was a “necessary decision.”. While other responses questioned why “they didn’t just cancel gcw outright”. However, the overall feel from the responses is well represented in this student’s quote: “I’m sad we can’t go, but it’s understandable. I’m not sure why students and parents are making such a big deal over this, I think it’s a very reasonable decision.”
This quote reflects both how “ the notice was very short.” making it a stressful time for many, but the support coming from students who understand that ISB, “After considerable deliberation, consultation and discussion, we have made the reluctant decision” to cancel the overseas gcw trips, with In-Thailand trips still running.
After this decision, the school had 168 students now with no selection for a trip and many trips had to expand the number they could allow, adding teachers to these trips and more trips were created within a day. A great effort was made in the high school to try and make the best out of a bad situation was well appreciated by the students. One student wrote, “it’s quite disappointing considering the fact that we were all looking forward to it so much, but it’s understandable because the school holds responsibility for so many students.” in response to the question do you agree with the school’s decision many students said yes; “Yes. Safety must be on the top of the school’s priority list.” A great understanding was in this response from a student who agreed with the school’s decision “yes because then the person who gets quarantined won’t be able to enjoy GCW week as well as the February break.”
But of course, with understanding responses also came with many students with misconceptions and or questions, in the early stages of the announcement. Mr Alexander, the high school principal, helped respond to these comments.
In response to the question Do you agree with the decision made by the school based on the advice from the ISOS? Students wrote:
“I think they made the correct decision, but I feel really bad for all the people who wanted to go on these trips because they had to pay so much for equipment and the actual trip fee”
Mr Alexander – “The decision (to cancel the overseas trips) was made with some sadness by the administration of the school because ideally we too would have liked the trips to continue. However, given recent advice from ISOS about possible quarantine situations and travel disruptions when travelling out of Thailand, we needed to cancel the overseas trips to help ease parents’ concerns and to remove the risk of a student or teacher being stuck or quarantined overseas if they fell ill.
The school decided to provide full refunds for students that were originally scheduled to travel overseas to minimize the financial burden for parents. We know that some students/parents may have bought special clothes or equipment but we were not in a position to cancel these trips any earlier.
“no, I do not. I understand where they are coming from but I do not agree with the school. ISOS stated that the risk is low. so school doing this is just the school’s own precaution.
Mr Alexander – The risk of actually contracting the novel coronavirus is extremely low and unlikely to occur on any of our trips, however our concerns for the overseas trips was based on uncertainty about possible quarantines and travel disruptions whilst travelling out of Thailand.
“It is quite disappointing. But what’s the most upsetting thing is how the announcement is a quite a-few-days last-minute thing. It is considered and understood that the school tried their best to continue the oversea field trip, however, the coronavirus should be critical enough to have backup plans earlier. The gears are bought, and it costs money. Sure, we can use it in the future, but it’s more appreciated to change plans a month before.”
Mr Alexander – Up until Monday, we were hopeful that we could continue with all GCW trips based on advice received from infectious disease experts, ISOS, travel doctors and referring to advice from WHO and CDC. However, given the recent advice about travel conditions overseas and heightened concerns by some parents and students and administration we cancelled the overseas trips even though it was just a few days before the planned departure dates.
“NO! To cancel all the foreign trips because the students may be quarantined is inefficient. I am going to Oman and that is far away from the coronavirus including the fact that Oman is also not quarantining people. I do not see the point as it would create a logistical nightmare and it would ruin everyone’s (especially my) GCW.”
Mr Alexander – Although unlikely that any student or teacher would contract the novel coronavirus (particularly in Oman), there is still some uncertainty about international travel. We have moved all 168 students overseas GCW trips to Thailand based trips and tried to accommodate their new choices and place them in one day. Mr Vaughan, Khun Pat and the HS team have worked very hard to make this happen with extremely short notice.
“How could they do this? I was at first distraught as it was my final GCW and I also found out CC IASAS (which I was a part of) was cancelled. I was super unhappy with this.”
Mr Alexander – We were hopeful of still being able to run the overseas trips, particularly for seniors and for students that have recently had travel opportunities for CC IASAS cancelled as well, but were not able to do so. Mr Giles and the Arts office are looking at a virtual IASAS CC so that our students can still participate and showcase their great work.
Following a week of many sad cancellations and changes to travel due to the novel coronavirus we can’t control, it is great to see so many students being understanding of how busy the office has been and how upset the teachers must be as well, keeping in mind their trips also got cancelled. The fast turnaround by the high school team, making new trips, expanding trips and contacting providers to book more room for trips to be expanded, all in a day, is something that eased a lot of stress within the high school student body.