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Coronavirus: Alternative spring break trips at Springfield College cancelled

By Danny Priest

Springfield College has officially cancelled all alternative spring break trips that were scheduled to take place next week.

The decision comes in light of the looming threat of coronavirus, which has now totaled over 115,000 cases worldwide and that number continues to rise.

“Our decisions were based on trying to be the most cautious and take the most precautions in order to keep our students safe and consider their well-being,” said Charlene Elvers, the Director of the Center for Service and Leadership, and the individual who was overseeing all of the alternative spring break trips.

“We did not want someone to get sick while they were on one of these trips, (we) also did not want students to be in a situation where they might be around someone in a different part of the country who contracted the virus and then they might be required to stay there in isolation,” Elvers added.

There had been five trips scheduled to occur over spring break. The destinations included: Springfield, Mass.; Jonesville, Va.; Monroe, N.C.; Eagle Butte, S.C.; and Bogota, Columbia.

Each trip was scheduled to be a community service trip. Groups of students were planning to work with groups such as Habitat for Humanity, the YMCA, the Appalachia service project, and even working on Native American reservation land.

Now, none of that will be occurring.

“Really all of our decisions were based on that alone (safety) and not money, or how are we inconveniencing people,” Elvers said. “All the meetings that I attended in everyone situation, all the people I talked to, it was really what is the safest option for our students. That’s what brought us to our decision.”

Flying presents a particularly dangerous risk at the moment, and several of these groups would have been on multiple flights for their trips.

“It’s always hard if you feel like you’re overreacting, but in this case, when I really look at the information we’re receiving… these decisions are not an overreaction, they’re an appropriate reaction to something that we’ve never experienced before, that we’ve never seen before,” Elvers said.

Understandably, students are disappointed with the decision that’s been made, but they are aware that it is in their best interest.

“Obviously the decision is disappointing, I know we were all excited for this opportunity to serve others and grow through our service experiences, but at the same time the decision is certainly understandable,” said Ryan Bunton, who was supposed to go to Jonesville, Va.

“The supervisors and group leaders dedicated a ton of time and effort towards planning and preparing for this trip, so it’s unfortunate that their hard work didn’t come to fruition, but I’m still incredibly appreciative of all the relationships I’ve built over the last couple months through our meetings and activities,” Bunton added.

For others, the quick notice on the decision to cancel stung, particularly after planning and anticipating the trip for a while now.

“I completely understand needing to take all precautions possible, I just would have appreciated more open communication throughout the decision-making process because I was told one day not to worry and the next day that it was canceled,” Diara Vicedomini, who was supposed to go to Monroe, said.

Regardless of concerns, the ultimate decision comes down to student safety.

“People don’t have an immunity built up yet to this virus, there is no vaccine, and it is just an unsafe circumstance to send students out into a circumstance where we don’t know how many people they’re going to come in contact with and what circumstance they’ve been in,” Elvers said.

In addition to alternative spring break trips being cancelled, educational trips were shut down as well. One group of students was supposed to go to Georgia and Alabama for a trip focused on civil rights.

“I am kinda disappointed with the whole thing being cancelled because this is my senior year as an international student in the U.S., and I was really looking forward to enjoying my possibly last spring break here,” said Jay Sophalkalyan, who was supposed to be attending.

“I was also supposed to go to Las Vegas for the annual Sigma Tau Delta convention to present my paper the week after spring break, and that got cancelled too. This pandemic has truly resulted in a lot of missed opportunities for me and spoiled my senior experience. But it is what it is, and no one can help it. I just hope the situation will be better by May, so I could at least have a traditional commencement ceremony,” he added.

Students who had been scheduled to go on these trips and invested money into them will be reimbursed in full in the near future.

Photos Courtesy of Business Line

Additional coronavirus coverage:

Mary-Beth Cooper on making tough decisions

Reactions from students regarding extended spring break

Reactions from student-athletes on spring break trips being cancelled

A look into decisions of schools surrounding Springfield College

A summary of the coronavirus forum and some Q+A transcription

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