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2024 Lynbrook summer trip to Europe canceled

Students+on+the+2023+France+and+Spain+trip+pose+in+front+of+the+Sagrada+Familia+cathedral%2C+a+notable+work+of+Antoni+Gaud%C3%AD%2C+an+artist+the+students+learned+about+on+the+trip.+Photo+used+with+permission+from+Charlotte+Kruk.
Students on the 2023 France and Spain trip pose in front of the Sagrada Familia cathedral, a notable work of Antoni Gaudí, an artist the students learned about on the trip. Photo used with permission from Charlotte Kruk.

The 12-day Grecian Odyssey Trip, originally set for June 2024 and organized through Education First Tours, a well known for profit educational travel company, was canceled due to unforeseen policy violations in student recruitment. 

On previous similar trips, students traveled to a country or two in Europe, viewing landmarks, touring museums and completing guided activities. For the past two years, the trips have been led by art teachers, though not tied to the art curriculum and open to the entire school.

“It’s so important for all students to see the breadth of the world beyond this little bubble that we live in,” said Charlotte Kruk, art teacher and head of the 2023 Spain and France Trip. “So I think it’s so important that students have an opportunity also to travel independently, to start to grow their independence and empathy for other types of people and cultures.” 

 The trip was called off because it violated a California Department of Education policy — FUHSD staff are prohibited from promoting or hosting an EF trip in any way that implies a connection to the district, giving the impression of being school or district sponsored. This includes soliciting students through FUHSD email chains and organizing a trip on school grounds as it presents a liability for the district in case of a lawsuit from a family member. 

Barbara Takahashi, College and Career Center adviser and initiator of EF Trips in 2022, sent mass emails throughout the school, recruiting students for the first 2022 Italy trip, unaware of these limitations. The following 2023 trip also used emails throughout the school to advertise the opportunity to students.

 While Lynbrook has a history of curriculum-based overseas trips, EF trips at Lynbrook were initiated by Takahashi as her final project before retirement. Kruk was invited on a training tour with Takahashi to Lisbon, Portugal and attended the 2022 Italy tour as a teacher chaperone before organizing her own trips.

The infringement was first brought to the district’s attention through Kruk in March. Kruk’s intention in alerting the district of the infraction was not to cancel the trip, but rather to work with the district in the hopes of continuing it as a Lynbrook tradition. While the violation also pertained to the 2023 trip, an exception was made for the students who had already paid in full for the trip. The 2024 trip fell under further scrutiny, however, as it was over a year afterward, with only five students officially scheduled. 

Another district concern was that lower income students would not be able to participate in the trips. EF Tours trips are quite costly; the Spain and France trip cost more than $5000 per student. By contrast, all district-approved trips have extensive financial aid programs available to allow equal opportunities across the student population. When questioned by parents on their strict policies, FUHSD cited California state laws mandating district approved trips be equally accessible to students, regardless of economic status, a criteria EF trips do not fall under.  

“I thought it made sense; I understood the money aspect of it,” parent Sudhir Narayana said. “But it’s also not fair to those who can afford to send their kids, and telling them that, ‘Hey, since this trip is not fair to everyone and it’s fair to only a few people, we are going to deny it to everyone.’” 

Unlike band and choir trips which are curriculum-based and are only open to students in those programs, the EF trip was not tied to any academic course aside from its loosely art based locations. Instead, it was intended to attract a wide range of Lynbrook students beyond those in the arts programs. Other schools have held similar trips with students directly recruited by teachers from numerous schools, but it is uncommon to have approved trips with students from only one school as hoped for by Takahashi and Kruk. 

“I was definitely very disappointed, especially since I planned to go with one of my friends and we wouldn’t get that chance to go,” sophomore Amolika Sudhir said. “It would be difficult to find another opportunity like that, especially since summers can get quite busy.”

Through consecutive phone calls from FUHSD Associate Superintendent Trudy Gross, families were notified of the cancellation and presented with their options — to keep their non-refundable deposit with EF Tours and look for another trip for their students as a private person or group, talk to surrounding districts about joining any offered trips or cancel the trip altogether. Despite efforts to seek another trip through another school, all families ultimately decided to cancel the trip and were fully compensated for their monetary investments by the district using district funds.       

“The support for these trips is critical,” Kruk said. “Another trip is on a total back-burner for me right now, but it’s such a great opportunity for students. You learn, grow and you just become a new, wonderful person through that experience.”                                                                                   

Despite the cancellation, both students and teachers remain optimistic for future travel opportunities. Overseas curriculum trips for Lynbrook students such as those through the music programs continue, but EF trips stay unavailable for now. 

“This is not the end of EF trips,” Gross said. “But trips with for profit organizations do need to be coordinated outside of school.”

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Grace Zhu, Staffer
(she/her) Grace is a sophomore and excited to be a new staffer for the Epic. When she isn’t procrastinating she enjoys taking funky photos of her friends and napping with her dog. She always enjoys collecting sweaters, reading the news and going to museums in her free time.

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