Travel policy adapts to evolving pandemic


Graphic by Connor Fondrevay-Bedell

Betsy Jarosick, staff writer

South’s Etruscan Editorial Board traveled to Los Angeles in early April, representing one of the first major tests of the district’s new overnight travel policy, Mark Maranto, Assistant Principal of Student Activities, shared.

The school board revised policies for educational travel for the first time since 2007, adjusting to new Covid-19 related challenges, Maranto said. The new policy requires that all overnight trips receive approval from the school board instead of just the principal, arrange for one student per bed, and provide paid travel insurance and refundable plane tickets, Maranto said. The need for new insurance requirements was made clear after the school’s experience in 2020.

“All of [these changes] happened because music traveled a lot, there was a big Hawaii trip planned for [the] band in March of 2020,” Maranto said. “March of 2020 [was] when everything shut down. There were a bunch of families who did not purchase the travel insurance and we were trying to get their money back for them and it was a lot [of money].”

The main concern for school travel was creating a protocol for students testing positive for Covid-19 while attending a trip, Maranto said. The new policy addresses this issue by requiring additional chaperones on trips who can stay behind with students and allow them to quarantine in place, instead of returning with the school group.

One club that has been impacted by travel restrictions is Model United Nations (MUN), as they traveled frequently for competitions before the pandemic, Jesse Sisler, MUN Sponsor, and Special Education Teacher, said. This year, South’s team has attended in-person conferences hosted by local high schools but they have not been able to attend any higher-level competitions hosted by colleges that require overnight travel, Sisler explained.

The previous block on school travel has also prevented many students from attending more competitive conferences, which has been frustrating for some of the club’s more advanced students, Sisler said. Being unable to participate in traditional travel and missing out on conferences has significantly impacted morale of the club, Sisler explained.

“It’s hard to quantify it, but [the lack of travel] definitely affects enthusiasm,” Sisler said. “While the team is really close, it’s easier to build relationships with each other when you’re getting that experience of traveling, when you’re together for 72 hours straight [at a competition].”

Confusion about how the district’s new travel policy functioned led to last minute panic for Yearbook Editorial Board members traveling to the Journalism Education Association conference, junior Samantha Kleiner, Clubs Editor said.

Students felt nervous and left in the dark on if they would be approved to travel, complicating the excitement students felt about the trip, Kleiner said.  

“I know why they were hesitant to approve the trip, but from a student’s perspective, it was frustrating because there was a lot of back and forth with this trip,” Kleiner said. “People [were] stressed out or nervous about not being able to go because it’s something that we really wanted to do.”

With the new policy in place, students will once again be able to visit new places, create lasting memories, and learn important ideas and skills, Maranto said. The perspective on the importance of trips is also shared by students, Kleiner said, as school trips give students a chance to further their learning in a new environment.

“I’m glad that the school board and administration were able to open up student travel again, because we get really good opportunities,” Kleiner said. “[These trips provide] new learning experiences [outside of] the building. I think that it’s really amazing that despite Covid-19, [the school board and administration] have been able to open it back up again.”