Schools around the state have a tremendous amount of money invested in bus trips to Washington DC and several of them are scrambling to save their trips and their investment.
That is after the company called Discovery Tours Inc. failed to pay for services for Orange Middle school students, according to Olentangy Local Schools.
Officials there said they are not alone.
NBC4 is looking into the school’s complaint.
WKYC reported an email sent to Oberlin City Schools from Discovery Tours announced that the company has suspended operations ‘effective immediately.’ The email also added that all future trips are canceled.
An Olentangy School district spokesperson said services like hotel, transportation and food for all those middle schoolers, who were expected to travel May 14 – 18 is not accounted for.
“We were devastated to learn about it but quickly rolled up our sleeves to figure out ways we could make this happen,” said Spokesperson Krista Davis.
The district has found donors to cover the costs for now, so thee trip can go forward.
The Olentangy Orange Middle School Principal sent a letter to parents Friday, which reads in part:
Thank you for your patience over the last 24 hours as we’ve worked to address the challenges surrounding our upcoming 8th grade Washington D.C. trip. I am so excited to share with you that our D.C. trip is secured and a “go” due to incredibly generous donations from Prodigy Student Travel, the Olentangy Orange Middle School Teachers Scholarship Fund, and the Olentangy Orange High School Senior Class of 2018.
Prodigy Student Travel, a local company, will be taking the lead and moving our trip forward. They have extensive experience in planning and executing student travel. Additionally, Prodigy Student Travel is the vendor used by the other four Olentangy Local School District middle schools. In order to make this trip work, we have shortened the trip by one day, leaving Tuesday, May 15 and returning Thursday, May 18. Although the trip is shortened, we will still be able to accommodate all the same educational experiences, minus a visit to the Air and Space Museum. Early next week, we will share the modified itinerary with students and parents.
While we are so grateful for the generous donations made by Prodigy Student Travel, Orange Middle School Teachers and the Orange High School Class of 2018, we still have additional expenses that remain uncovered. Therefore, the District will continue to welcome private donations to cover the remaining cost of the trip.
The doors at the Discovery Tours offices near Cleveland are locked and the owner Alfred Cipolletti is nowhere to be found.
“They have not responded to any outreach at all,” Davis said.
“If there is a greater financial situation a bankruptcy or some other charges against them, that would be cause to revoke their membership,” said Carylann Assante, Executive Director of Student and Youth Travel Association.
She said Discovery Tours has been a member of the association since 2008.
“From my understanding, it is over 30 groups of students, which could be more than 2,000 students involved around the state,” Assante said.
It is not only the Olentangy School District who is having problems with Discovery. A Hilliard School Spokesperson Stacie Raterman said they canceled their contract with Discovery after making their first payment and are trying to recoup more than $100,000 she said the bus service owes families.
Dublin Schools Spokesman Doug Baker said they found out the night before one of their middle school trips to DC, their rooms were not paid for. “We scrambled and came up with alternates and the rest of the trip was uneventful.” He said the district will no longer use Discovery Tours Inc.
The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office shows the company has been active since 1982 and in December formed a new company, called New Destinations LLC.
A letter was sent to Orange Middle School parents letting them know about the situation.
The district said 260 students were scheduled on the trip and each had paid $870 for the trip.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office said they have received 170 complaints from parents. Davis said they are meeting with parents and have several private donors who have offered to donate some money.