Clark County schools weigh student safety, education for trips

Paris attack, ISIS threats cause some to delay travel plans.

The Paris terrorist attacks and reported threats from the Islamic State have prompted at least one Clark County school to postpone a class trip while other districts will keep their travel plans in place.

The terrorist attacks haven’t caused a major decrease in overall travel in and out of the area, and the number of people traveling over Thanksgiving is projected to increase.

School districts must balance student safety with learning opportunities, local school leaders said.

Northwestern Local Schools will delay its eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., by about three weeks. More than 100 students had planned to leave on Friday but will now go on Dec. 7.

Reports of the Islamic State possibly targeting the nation’s capital convinced the district to reschedule, Northwestern Superintendent Jesse Steiner said.

“It just gives our government time to make sure they know where all the bad guys are at and time to evaluate the situation and make sure our kids are safe,” Steiner said.

More than 100 Tecumseh Middle School students have a visit to Washington scheduled from Saturday to Tuesday and plan to go. School leaders consulted with security experts and the travel company, Superintendent Norm Glismann said in a statement.

“After many reassurances that there is no credible threat to Washington, D.C., and that the heightened security ensures that this will be among the safest times to see the capital, we will move forward with this incredible educational opportunity for our students,” he said.

Triad Local Schools also will go ahead with a trip to New York City for the high school drama club next week. The school has talked with the tour organizer, Principal Kyle Huffman said, and learned that security will be heightened, including for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Chaperones and students also will use a texting app to stay in touch.

It’s a tough decision, Steiner said.

“No matter what you chose, someone’s going to think you’re wrong,” he said.

Northwestern parent Julie Day discussed the trip with her husband and 13-year-old daughter Elizabeth. They decided to stay home.

Elizabeth has already been to the capital, Day said, and another trip wasn’t worth the worry. Plus with heightened security, she said she wasn’t sure how fun the trip would be.

“Honestly, I don’t think she’ll be any safer in a few weeks than now,” she said.

Day knows the U.S. and Washington face threats all the time.

“But normally we don’t have ISIS right in our faces telling us they’re going to bomb the stronghold,” she said. “That concerned me, and it was right after Paris.”

Urbana High School students have a trip planned to Paris next summer. The district has tentatively approved it, but will re-evaluate in a few months, Superintendent Charles Thiel said.

“You can never assure 100 percent safety of anybody on any given day,” he said. “You just have to put in as many safe guards as you can … We’re hopeful the unrest that’s happening won’t be ongoing.”

For many students the trips may be the only opportunity they get to travel, Thiel said, especially overseas, and that’s a great cultural learning experience.

“You get a broader world view when you get the chance to see that not everything is like it is in Ohio,” he said.

Travelers should plan for possible security delays at flight and rail connections if they’re visiting any areas that have been attacked or received threats, said Cindy Antrican, AAA public affairs manager.

Local AAA offices haven’t received any calls canceling or adjusting plans, Antrican said, and more than 46.9 million people are expected to travel next week for the holiday.

“We encourage travelers that just because you’re on vacation, your safety can’t go on vacation,” Antrican said. “Travel, enjoy, create lifetime memories, but still keep your personal safety in mind, be aware of your surroundings and do not give away your personal information.”

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