Coronavirus concerns affect student trips

The William S. Hart Union High School District. Dan Watson/The Signal
The William S. Hart Union High School District. Dan Watson/The Signal

Editor’s note: The Signal Newspaper was made aware Wednesday the Student Network Television conference was canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

While Castaic Middle School students were in Washington, D.C., on Monday, William S. Hart Union High School District students found out they’d be unable to attend the Student Television Network convention there, due to coronavirus concerns.

The sudden nature of the cancellation left students upset, but Hart District officials said the decision was “a prudent and necessary precaution,” and they’re in the process of arranging for students to compete remotely. Castaic school officials contacted The Signal Wednesday to say the group had already departed for the STN convention by the time the Hart District made the move to cancel the trip.

Hart District officials made the decision to cancel student airline travel for the next two weeks due to growing concerns over the coronavirus. 

The STN conference cancellation deadline was 1 p.m. Monday, which called for Superintendent Mike Kuhlman to make a quick decision, almost at the last minute, according to Dave Caldwell, spokesman for the district.  

Wade Williams, video production teacher at Saugus High School, said the decision meant he and his students were notified about the cancellation Monday, 10 hours before they were scheduled to depart for Washington, D.C.

“It’s been a sad two days since the district decided to cancel the trip,” Williams said. “I’m devastated, the kids are devastated, the seniors lost an opportunity to make memories and learn about the nation’s capital.” He added the schools have been participating in this convention for the past decade.

CUSD board members approved the field trip for the students at Castaic Middle School at the beginning of the year, Charmin Ortega, executive assistant to the superintendent at CUSD, said Tuesday. 

Students and advisers at Castaic Middle School left for Washington, D.C., on Sunday, the day before Hart District officials made the announcement. 

Castaic schools officials reached out to The Signal Wednesday to clarify that both districts were in communication, but the middle school’s students were already at their destination when the Hart District canceled.

“This is an international convention where we’re given video challenges. We can make documentaries, short films and it’s recognized globally,” said Nathan Miller, Saugus High student. This would have been Miller’s third time attending the convention.

Williams said a refund for the hotel stay has been issued, but he’s still working with the airline and tour guides so students can be reimbursed for their expenses.

“A lot of kids have worked to pay for this themselves,” said Miller. “Not only can we not go, we have to fight to get our money back, which adds to the anger. The money was my first concern when I was told we weren’t going.”

In an effort to allow students who are unable to attend due to coronavirus concerns, STN officials announced schools will be able to participate remotely online. Williams said this will give his students the opportunity to participate in the convention, despite not being able to attend.

While plans are still in the works, preliminary indications are that Canyon and West Ranch high students are expected to go to Anaheim to compete; while Saugus High and Placerita Junior High students are going to compete from their own campuses. 

The students are going to be competing with students in a time zone three hours ahead, Williams added.

“We’re going to be starting at 4:15 (a.m.) Thursday morning,” Williams said, “and the district is going to help facilitate it.”

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