Coronavirus affects spring break travel plans at Maize

The pandemic COVID-19 is affecting several students’ plans to travel abroad over break. The virus has spread to over 100 countries.

Update, March 13: The group of students planning to board a cruise yesterday canceled their travel plans.

The Coronavirus outbreak will keep some Maize students from going on spring break trips, while others said their plans haven’t changed.

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has spread to 118 countries as of March 11 and has created 122,399 confirmed cases, according to John Hopkins University. The World Health Organization recently acknowledged the spread of the virus, declaring COVID-19 a pandemic that will continue to spread to more countries and regions; as a result, people have been urged to limit international travel and keep good hygiene to prevent infection. 

This decrease in travel has affected several groups of Maize students who have or had plans to travel over spring break. Among these are a group of students and parents who are boarding a cruise and a group who had plans to travel to France. 

Seventeen students between Maize High and Maize South planned to attend the trip. 

“It was really taken out of our hands,” French teacher Sandy Nitcher said. “The tour company was required. They sent the message right away that said it was all canceled and we will be available to reschedule and we will discuss that at a later date. There was no other possibilities.”

Junior Cora Bartlett was one of four students who had decided not to go before the trip was canceled.

“I’m not going because there’s a high likelihood that we would get stuck there,” Bartlett said Wednesday. “We wanted to go on the trip without any worries or stress, so we decided that now is not a good time to spend our money and go all the way to Europe to be worried.”

Junior Bode Carter, another student who canceled, said they will receive vouchers to take another trip.

“The main issue is coming back to the United States,” Carter said. “We don’t know what the protocol is going to be. You are just helping spread the virus, which is not great. I’d rather just play it safe and have more fun [in the future].”

In addition to the students going to France, there is a group of students and parents planning to board a Carnival Cruise Line over break. Senior Josh McLaughlin said he is in danger of self-quarantine when he returns.

“When we come back I have to be quarantined because my dad’s work is not letting me live at home,” McLaughlin said. “I will be living with my friends for three weeks.”

Senior Tanner Carter’s mom, Michelle, said earlier this week she considered rescheduling the trip.

“We have decided to go ahead and go,” she said Tuesday evening. “This is a chance we are taking, but every parent has been OK with them going. It’s scary, I’m not going to lie. But this is their senior time.” 

USD 266 Director of Communications Lori Buselt said the district has discussed the possible threat of coronavirus and its effects on the district.

“On Monday, members of the Maize Board of Education and Dr. Chad Higgins, Superintendent of Schools, discussed the coronavirus and efforts Maize USD 266 is taking,” Buselt said in an email. “[It] includ[ed] communications with employees and parents, developing contingency plans and upcoming student trips.”

The district has created an informational page on the district’s website and is continuing to inform teachers as the situation progresses.

“District leaders developed a Coronavirus COVID-19 prevention and information resource page on the district’s website,” Buselt said. “The district also increased communication to educators and students regarding the importance of proper and frequent handwashing and is asking families to join in this effort to help us stay healthy together as OneMa1ze.”

In regards to other districts in the state of Kansas, Buselt said the leaders are working to maintain student and staff health statewide.

“While we cannot speak directly on behalf of other districts’ plans for the future,” Buselt said, “many district leaders across the state of Kansas and beyond are working in step with local, state, and national health and education leaders in the interest of our students, employees and greater community.”

Numerous universities in Kansas including Kansas, Kansas State, Emporia State and Newman have extended their spring breaks and will move all classes online. 

In a video sent to students and staff on March 12, principal Chris Botts addressed the current plan regarding the possibility of a school shut down.

“Currently, there are no plans to shut school down at this point or even upon our return after spring break,” Botts said. “Really, we are still just gathering information.”

Botts assured students that the janitorial staff will be deep cleaning the entire school building over the course of spring break and reminded them to continue thoroughly washing their hands. They are remaining vigilant and taking all the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

Additionally, Botts said the decision would most likely come from local or state level health departments and could last from four to 14 days.

“Should we shut down,” Botts said. “The decision would be made by the Kansas State Department of Health and Environment and our local Sedgwick County Health Department.”