RIESEL, Texas – Coronavirus has forced the closure of businesses and the cancellation of events and trips.
31 graduating seniors from Riesel High School are experiencing this first-hand after their New York City senior trip was cancelled.
It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime – experiencing the Statue of Liberty, a Broadway show and Ellis Island with the Riesel Class of 2020.
“It really upset her. She was sad. She was really looking forward to going and spending time with her friends,” says Tonya Howard, parent of a Riesel HS senior.
Tonya’s daughter Meagan is one of 31 seniors who worked for years saving and raising $2,000 to pay for her senior trip.
“A lot of these students, I don’t know the number, but have been in school since kindergarten. And so, they were just excited,” says Howard.
The trip was scheduled from March 16th to the 19th. Three days before they were supposed to fly out, they received a notice from the company EF Explore America Tours, cancelling it because of COVID-19.
“So we can take a travel voucher that we can use at a later time, or we can cash it out. But they will keep $750 dollars,” says Howard.
This means if every student chose to cash out, the company would keep an estimated total of $22,500 for their cancelled trip.
In a statement, EF Explore America says, “This amount allows us to only partially cover costs related to non-recoverable payments to our suppliers, our staff, and the investment we continue to make in itinerary, date and destination flexibility.”
“We would like them to, once they are refunded for the money they spent, we would like to them to give us a 100 percent refund,” says Chad Slagle, parent of two Riesel HS seniors.
Chad’s two senior boys are now out $1,500.
“This money belongs to them. They are very upset that they put this work in to make this money to go on this trip, and now they are not going to get a 100 percent refund on it,” says Slagle.
Slagle and his wife created an online petition demanding the company refund every senior in full.
“To let them know that we just aren’t happy with the outcome of what was going on and how they handled these refunds,” says Slagle.
Howard says for seniors like Meagan, this money could have gone towards their future.
“She was accepted to Baylor, and that is something I think she really wants to do, you know? The full $2,000 would make a difference there,” says Howard.
EF Explore America Tours says they are either providing each student with a full voucher so they can take their trip on a later date, redeemable for two years. Or, they can get a partial refund of around $1,200.
Parents tell FOX44 the problem with taking the voucher is all 31 seniors won’t be able to make that trip again together.
Other concerns raised by parents is what happens if they take the voucher and the company shuts down entirely because of the pandemic.
EF Explore America says, “EF Explore America is part of the EF Education First family of companies. We have been in business for 55-plus years. We have weathered global disruptions before, and we are confident that the diversity of our businesses (both in the services we offer as well as geographically) will allow us to weather these unprecedented times, too. While we are finding that the majority of our travelers still want to have the educational travel experience they signed up for, just later on or with a modified itinerary, we are now also offering a cash refund option as highlighted in our statement below. All travelers will automatically receive a transferable travel voucher as outlined below, and they may exchange it for a cash refund less an amount that will help cover a portion of our non-recoverable costs. The vouchers are worth all money spent and good through September 2022. They are also transferable within a family or school community.”
Still, parents and their seniors say they just want the full $2,000 back.
FOX44 contacted Riesel ISD for comment, but they did not respond.