Milton HS principal negotiating with travel company for refund on trip canceled over coronavirus fears

MILTON, Mass. — Coronavirus concerns have led schools to cancel overseas trips, including Milton High School.

Some parents told Boston 25 that they’re upset they’ve been offered travel vouchers instead of a refund, for a trip that won't happen.

Margaret Wilson and Andrea DiRuscio have been looking forward to their daughter’s trip to Portugal for nearly a year.

“I paid for a trip that I want her to go on and she wants to go on it too,” Wilson said.

But Monday, the Milton High-sponsored trip was called off due to coronavirus.

The school sent this letter to the parents of the 33 students who were scheduled to go on the April vacation trip.

DiRuscio said that she was most upset that the school failed to tell parents in the letter, sent on March 2, that they had until March 3 to receive a partial refund for canceling.

In its contract with the travel company, EF Educational Tours, Milton High School principal James Jette said he had to cancel the trip by Monday, or parents would be on the hook for the entire $3,500-per-student trip.

“Today is the 45th day. If you don’t cancel it before the 45th day then you lose out on the portion of your money, so we had to enact the peace of mind clause,” Jette said.

That “peace of mind” clause allowed travel vouchers, instead of a cash refund, for parents and students.

They can apply the entire $3,500 toward future Milton High trips. They can use it for a college study tour or spring break, or sell it to a friend but the voucher has to be used by the end of 2021, and has to be used on trips only with EF Educational Tours.

On Wednesday night, parents attended a meeting at the school to figure out how they’ll be refunded.

“It’s a crummy situation, and they’re doing their best to minimize the damage,” said Dennis Mitchell, a parent. “It was frustrating I think for all of us because, Friday, I think, we got EF Tours saying we know about the virus, of course, everything’s good, and then over the weekend even, most of us got the last payment taken, and then Monday we get the notice that they’re canceling.”

Milton High School Principal James Jette said that, despite a clear cancelation policy in the families’ contracts, he’s negotiating for more from the company. One new option provided is a cash refund of at least 50% of the cost. Jette is also hoping to extend the deadline of the vouchers to 2022.

“Our biggest thing is to make sure our students are safe, and we’re never going to waver on that,” said Jette. “Let’s face it, when you plan a trip like this, you plan it a year ahead. Who’s making a trip now for next year when you don’t know the outcome of this whole situation?”

EF Educational Tours told Boston 25 News that offering a voucher, instead of cash back, is standard in the industry because tour companies often have the eat the costs for the trips whether they happen or not.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office said they have received several complaints about issues involving travel refunds for cancelations due to the coronavirus and said consumers can reach out to their office for help or to file a complaint.

Another option some families are considering is getting a group of the 33 students and their parents together and taking a future trip separately from the school; they could even buy vouchers from other students willing to sell theirs.