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Southold school officials weigh their options after coronavirus fears force class trip to be canceled

Amid the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, Southold High School officials have canceled the annual student trip to Italy in April, officials confirmed Tuesday. 

The trip, planned for April 2-14, may be rescheduled for later this year, rerouted or canceled altogether, according to principal Terence Rusch. District officials are waiting to obtain more information from the Boston-based educational travel company Explorica. 

“It could be a later time, it could be elsewhere — we’re waiting for them to give us all possible options so we can review it with parents involved,” Mr. Rusch said.

Mr. Rusch, Superintendent David Gamberg and Ivan Santiago, the trip’s faculty coordinator, made the decision to cancel last Friday, in order to meet the March 2 cancellation deadline to obtain a full refund, he said. That decision was approved by the Board of Education. 

However, that deadline has now been extended to March 6, and may be extended further after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted from a Level 2 precaution warning to a Level 3 warning — which asks travelers to avoid nonessential travel to Italy. 

This year, almost 40 students planned to take the April trip, with stops in Italy, France and Spain. This year’s trip cost approximately $3,500 per student, Mr. Rusch said.

A statement published Feb. 26 on Explorica’s website states that the travel company is following CDC and U.S. Department of State updates on travel to Italy. 

“Explorica will be working with Program Leaders to move trips coming up soon to other countries or postpone until it’s deemed safe to visit Italy again,” it states. 

Once more information is available, school representatives plans to host a meeting with parents to explain alternative arrangements, Mr. Rusch said. 

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new novel coronavirus that can be easily spread from person to person. The CDC states that older adults and people with chronic medical conditions may be at increased risk for severe disease.

The widespread, ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 has, as of Tuesday afternoon, caused 79 deaths in Italy alone, where the number of people infected has reached 2,502, according to an online report by The New York Times. 

International airlines, including British Airways and Ryanair, have collectively suspended hundreds of flights to European countries as demand for travel drops.