D.C. tour cancellation fiasco affects Oberlin kids

By Laurie Hamame - lhamame@aimmediamidwest.com

The abrupt cancellation of a trip to Washington, D.C., left Oberlin City Schools officials scrambling to make new plans.

Discovery Tours, which has helped take Langston Middle School students to the nation’s capital for the past 10 years, called off the trip without a warning, superintendent David Hall said.

The only communication was a generic email announcing the company was shutting down and no explanation of what would happen with money paid for trips, Hall said.

Students paid for the majority of the field trip, including rooms reservations at the Hampton Inn Dulles-Cascade in Sterling, Va.

Hall said the the district will cover all costs lost by students. As for Discovery Tours, the district’s attorney has been consulted to seek reimbursement of the funds including a deposit.

Administrators have been unable to reach anyone at the Mayfield Village-based tour company for an explanation.

Repeated calls from the News-Tribune also went unanswered.

The hands-on learning experience is a tradition for eighth-graders, Hall said, so students were disappointed to hear D.C. was a no-go — but there is good news.

The field trip will continue through Nowak Tours, an agency in Valley City. Hall said the company was helpful and offered to match or reduce price if needed.

Oberlin isn’t the only district to have its trip canceled.

A trip to D.C. was canceled for more than 500 Mentor Public Schools eighth-graders on the eve of their departure because Discovery Tours was unable to receive final confirmation for the students’ hotel rooms. Still unaccounted for is more than $230,000 that students paid in advance.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a May 4 statement that his office has received more than 170 complaints about Discovery Tours since May 2. The complaints are primarily from parents who said they were concerned about canceled school trips after they had paid the company hundreds of dollars.

“Like many schools and families, we are very concerned about what’s happening with Discovery Tours and we want answers,” DeWine said. “As we gather information, I want Ohioans to know that this is a priority for my office and we will do everything we can to assist.”

His office’s Consumer Protection Section is reaching out to potentially affected school districts and gathering information.

Complaints may be filed online on the Ohio Attorney General’s website or by calling the help center Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. at 800-282-0515.

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.

By Laurie Hamame