Eighth-grade students at schools from Cincinnati to Cleveland are learning that their long-planned Washington, D.C., tour has been canceled, or is in serious jeopardy, due to problems with the tour operator, Discovery Tours.
In the first contact from the company since May 2, owner Alfred Cipolletti said in a brief e-mail Friday afternoon that Discovery Tours would be suspending all operations effective immediately.
"We regret to inform you that Discovery Tours Inc. has suspended its operations, effective immediately. All future trips are cancelled. Further information will be provided when available," Cipolletti's message said.
In the Cincinnati area, Madeira Middle School has just informed parents that their end-of-year bus trip to D.C. is off. Principal Tom Olsen says "to say that we are incredibly disappointed is an understatement."
Taylor Junior High in Cleves has not yet canceled its June trip, but Superintendent Craig Hockenberry tells 9 On Your Side they are watching the situation "very carefully."
Students have spent two years planning and saving money for the excursion.
Fairfield Middle School has canceled a school trip to Chicago.
But operator Discovery Tours has apparently had problems pre-paying the hotels in D.C, according to news reports from our sister station WEWS in Cleveland. As a result, schools in Dublin, Mentor, Hilliard, and other communities have canceled their trips.
Madeira Superintendent Kenji Matsudo says they have been unable to reach Discovery this week, and the district is trying to find out where the students' and parents' money has gone.
Each student paid $700 in advance for the three-day trip scheduled to start May 21.
Matsudo says the district is trying to schedule an alternate trip for the students, many of whom spent hours babysitting and mowing lawns to raise the money.
We will have more information on WCPO 9 On Your Side at 5:30 pm Friday.
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LETTER TO PARENTS FROM MADEIRA JR HGH SCHOOL:
Dear Madeira 8th Grade Parents:
We are very sorry to share some unfortunate and upsetting news with you this evening. We learned late this afternoon that several school districts in the Columbus and Cleveland area were having issues with their Washington D.C. trips that have been booked through Discovery Tours. School districts that are impacted include Mentor, Hilliard, Dublin, and North Royalton as well as others. I have been in contact with several Superintendents in these districts and saddened by what I’m hearing.
We have spent most of the afternoon trying to contact Discovery Tours and our representatives from the company but at this time have been unable to reach anyone. As recently as Monday of this week we had been in contact with them without any concerns. With the uncertainty of the company’s situation and not being able to reach them, we no longer have confidence in their ability to transport or provide an appropriate experience for our 8th graders. Having come to this conclusion with the Board of Education’s legal counsel, we’ve issued a letter to terminate our contract with the company and demand that parents be refunded in full.
I am sure you are feeling angry as you read this as are all of us in regards to a much anticipated trip that has been taken away from our 8th graders. Although we had success with the same company last year, as have many districts for several years, we are still trying to get answers as to what has gone wrong and how restitution can be made.
Please know that we are doing everything legally possible as a district to address the financial implications of this situation. After speaking with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, they are also encouraging families to individually contact their office.
Attorney General’s Office Contact Info:
· Toll Free: 1-800-282-0515
· Local: 513-852-3497
· Attorney General’s Website - Complaint Page [ohioattorneygeneral.gov]
· Process: Families can reach out to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to file a complaint with the tour company. The Attorney General’s Office will be working on behalf of the family to negotiate the possibility of a refund.
To say that we are incredibly disappointed is an understatement. Thank you for helping us to support your children through this disappointment.
Tom Olson, MMS Principal