LOCKPORT, NY (WKBW) — The pandemic could leave some school families in the Starpoint Central School District a little shortchanged.
A Lockport parent contacted 7 Eyewitness News to alert us that her son’s 8th grade field trip to Boston planned for May was canceled, but that parents should only expect to receive about half of what they paid in a refund.
Starpoint Middle School parent Kelly Hrab says she paid about a little over $800 for the field trip, but school families where informed by the school they will only be refunded $400 or a little more. The trip was scheduled for May 13-16th.
“When they take away half of our money that we put down — we pay enough in school taxes and everything else, so it’s just disappointing, very disappointing,” Hrab declared.
Hrab said she first heard from other parents the trip was canceled and not from the school or district. But a letter finally arrived within the past week notifying families it was canceled by the district.
The district has posted a letter on the middle school website about the cancellation and refund.
The letter stated “the 8th grade trip to Boston was officially canceled in late March out of an abundance of caution as the pandemic continues to unfold.”
It also states it is “working diligently with our touring company Travelogs International to coordinate the refund process.”
Each family will receive a minimum of $414.50. The letter indicates that is the required “50% refund as per Travelogs family agreement that was signed by families back in October.”
“We had heard that if we were the ones to cancel the trip — that we wouldn’t receive any of the money back,” remarked Hrab.
“Were parents aware of that when you signed up for it?” asked Buckley. “We had heard that if we were the ones who were to cancel the trip — due to like disciplinary actions or a child being sick that we wouldn't receive any of the money back,” replied Hrab.
7 Eyewitness News has reached out to Travelog in Lancaster for comment and obtained a copy of the travel agency's policy. It states "the cancellation penalties are in effect regardless of the reason for cancellation".
"The cancellation penalties are in effect regardless of the reason for cancellation, including unforeseen illness, disciplinary action taken by the school/organization, or cancellation of the entire group by the school/organization for any reason. Please contact Travelogs directly for replacement policy. There are absolutely no replacements within 72 hours of departure."
A company voice message says the office is closed “and will be indefinitely during to the coronaviurs pandemic," but all employees are working remotely.
However, the message also address school trip cancellations.
“Please note that we are aware of the upcoming trips canceled and are working diligently with our vendors, that we have contracts with, to see if there’s a possibility to recoup additional funds above and beyond the guaranteed refund listed on your trips website.”
Travelogs stated it will take some time and a process must be followed, noting they are working closely with the school chaperons in districts involved and information will be “forthcoming.”
The travel agency's website says it specializes in tours "geared towards the education community" for student travel, with more than 30-years of experience.
Travelogs followed up with this statement since our story aired:
"In response to the story that ran yesterday, April 15, 2020, Travelogs International would like to clarify the refund procedure for the parents of the students who were going to be traveling to Boston, MA with the Starpoint Middle School in Lockport, NY.
At no point did Travelogs International notify trip participants they would ONLY receive a 50% refund of the $829 trip cost. Travelogs notified the trip organizers that participants would receive that as a minimum reimbursement. It was also explained that Travelogs International was attempting to recoup additional funds on behalf of each participant from their suppliers in the Boston area. This would allow Travelogs to refund a larger portion of trip costs.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the employees of our suppliers are working remotely. This has made communications with various suppliers more difficult than usual. Therefore, the exact refund amount to the Starpoint teachers/parents was being delayed. Again, at no time was it ever stated that only the minimum would be refunded. Travelogs International has been working diligently for the past few weeks since the trip was formally cancelled by the Starpoint School District. We have been in weekly contact with the trips’ organizers.
With regard to the Starpoint Middle School trip to Boston, Travelogs has preliminary confirmation from our suppliers that additional refunds will be made due to the nature of the cancellation. At this time, the exact amount of all refunds has not been determined.
In reality, Travelogs expects to refund approximately 90-94% of the trip costs for the Starpoint trip. This refund amount well exceeds the refund due as listed on our agreement. At the time of the trip cancellation, each program participant was entitled to a 50% refund, by contract. Due to the efforts of the Travelogs International staff and the longstanding relationships with its suppliers, a significant refund will be made to each trip participant.
If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact the Travelogs International office."