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WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

D.C. trip canceled for eighth graders due to logistical and financial concerns

Westford CAT YouTube
The school committee meets on Tuesday, Oct. 10 to discuss the cancelation of the eighth grade Washington D.C. trip.

The Blanchard and Stony Brook Middle School eighth grade trip to Washington D.C. was canceled on Friday, Oct. 6 by principals Tim Hislop and Allison Hammer due to logistical and financial reasons. The trip was originally scheduled to take place this coming Spring, but will now be replaced with makeup trips to Boston and Canobie Lake Park over the course of three days in May and June, with more details to follow.

One of the reasons behind the cancelation concerned the flight arrangements. Instead of flying out to D.C. from Boston as one big group, students would have to fly out in two separate groups; one from Providence, Rhode Island, and the other from Manchester, New Hampshire.

“I’m thinking about the logistics of that and [how that is going to work] safety-wise. Even though my plan was to go on the trip again, […] how am I going to ensure that there is a final decision-maker at both of these airports?” Hammer said. “It’s physically impossible for me to be in both Providence and Manchester.”

Additionally, the tour group that the middle schools use, Capital Tours, had raised the prices this year, making the overall price of the trip $1,200 per student. This posed a financial burden for both the schools and families, according to Hammer.

Another problem that the principals considered was the issue of inclusion. In 2022, when day trips were held instead of an overnight trip to D.C., nine eighth graders were unable to go. However, last year, that number increased to 68 eighth graders who did not go on the D.C. trip. Although the exact reasons behind this jump are unclear, some concerns were financial and involved the safety of the students, according to Hammer.

“The decision to shift from D.C. was not made until two weeks ago,” Hislop said. “Initially our goal was to preserve that trip to D.C. if at all possible, but it became clear for a number of reasons that it was not going to be feasible with all of the complexities that were presented to us and all of the alternate arrangements.”

Before the cancelation was made final, a variety of alternative options were considered for still having the D.C. trip, like changing the travel dates, different airports, and switching to buses for transportation. According to Hammer, none of these options were effective, with the buses in particular giving rise to many potential problems.

“Prior to last year, everytime we had gone on the trip, it has actually been on a bus and logistically you cannot control traffic so there were many times where we were three hours late getting back,” Hammer said. “And we also had a bus breakdown on the side of the Mass pike and that was not easy to move 45 eighth graders onto another bus.”

Going forward, the plan is to combine the schools together in a series of smaller, more affordable trips. In Boston, the students will go on Harbor Tours, Duck Tours, Tours of Fenway Park and the Freedom Trail. At Canobie Lake, a variety of amusement park options will be provided.

“We are committed to providing all of our students a celebratory and culminating middle school trip that they will find memorable and fun,” Hammer said.

Though the seniors, juniors and sophomores at Westford Academy did not get a chance to go to D.C., mainly due to COVID, the freshmen students did. Looking back at this experience, many have fond memories and are disappointed at the decision to cancel the trip this year.

“I think it was something that was really fun. It made me a lot closer to my friends,” freshman Krisha Gami said. “From the perspective of a student who actually really enjoyed it, I obviously don’t want it to be canceled because I feel like it’s something that everybody should have a chance to go to.”

Many Westford parents are opposed to canceling the Washington D.C. trip, as they believe the trip is both a worthwhile experience where students can learn life skills, and also educational, especially after taking Civics class in eighth grade.

“I don’t know how an educator can take standing in the majestic Lincoln Memorial, standing on the steps where Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and substitute that with a trip to Canobie Lake Park,” Westford resident Jennifer Wilson said. “I really don’t think you can blame it on the costs. I don’t think you can blame it on logistics. And I know that you cannot blame it on COVID, for once.”

However, Hislop believes that canceling this trip is a good decision for families who were going to face problems if the trip were to happen, relieving them of any pressure of having to miss out.

“While some students and families have expressed disappointment like many of the comments we heard [at the school committee meeting], many have expressed that they’re thankful that they don’t have to worry about things like the cost of the trip [and] flying for the first time without a parent,” Hislop said. “These might be the quieter voices but we did hear some of them and they are important to keep in mind as well.”

Currently, there are petitions out for Westford residents who are in support of having the eighth graders go to D.C., with over 1,400 signatures in one of them. Both Hammer and Hislop are working with Superintendent Christopher Chew to release another statement to parents soon, covering any questions raised during the school committee meeting.

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Elitsa Koleva, Managing Editor
Hello! My name is Elitsa and I am a junior. I enjoy reading and watching the news, plus I like to write, which are some of the reasons behind me taking Journalism. I like to swim, paint and read! 

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    RonanOct 14, 2023 at 5:07 am

    Honestly, disappointing. I’m a 2020 alumni and thinking back to the trip is really cool. It was such a formative time with friend. That was the first time that I had spent and extended period of time away from my parent. It’s really disappointing that the middle school principals can’t figure something out. It sounds like they logistical portion of their planning can be chalked up to “ it’s too hard”. It sounds like their fears are coming from a place that they fear the worst will happen, and that they won’t be able to immediately remedy it. If that’s they case they should just accept that things may go wrong and trust that the staff and chaperones will deal with it the best they can until and Admin gets involved. I really think this trip should be reconsidered with faculty