Students Across Kansas City Are Devastated By Trips Canceled Because Of Coronavirus
Shawnee Mission East High School senior Ben Blickhan was supposed to be traveling across Europe as part of a trip his school choir has been planning for a year and a half.
Then COVID-19 happened.
Schools across the metro, like Shawnee Mission East, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy and Foreign Language Academy, have canceled school trips out of health concerns. It’s a move that’s supported by experts, and the advice of the U.S. Department of State. For students like Blickhan, it also means a different high school experience.
Blickhan says it was the right decision to cancel the trip but he was still “devastated” to not be able to go on a trip he’d started looking forward to since his sophomore year. The trip, which happens every two years, is a tradition for junior and senior students. This year, it included stops in Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and Prague where students would visit cultural sites and perform in three formal concerts.
“It's one of the big things that you have to look forward to in all of your high school,” Blickhan says. “And one of the things, you look back and be like, ‘Wow, do remember that? That was really amazing.’”
Blickhan said the last week the choir was cramming to make sure everyone had songs memorized. On Monday, the choir teacher informally polled students to see if they still wanted to go. Most of them were still on board, according to choir teacher Ken Foley.
“And I woke up Tuesday morning to the news that the Czech Republic had closed all schools and prohibited events of 100 or more people from gathering,” Foley says. “And I've looked, and then Slovakia had done the same thing.”
That day, Foley canceled the trip.
"In the end, it was the right decision," Blickhan says. "But we were all devastated when it happened."
Since then, on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 3 health advisory — the second-highest advisory — cautioning against travel abroad.
“Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions,” the advisory said. “Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.”
Blickhan says he’s waiting to see what COVID-19 means for the rest of his senior year.
“No one wants their senior year to be full of canceled plans and events that you were looking forward to. But that's kind of happening, which again, is out of our control. So nothing you can be too upset about,” Blickhan says.
Aviva Okeson-Haberman is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter: @avivaokeson.