Reactions and Responses to Off Campus Cancelations

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Abby Y.

A picture Abby Y. '20 created in memory of the Costa Rica Interim.

The effects of COVID-19 were already being experienced in the weeks before Westridge’s March 13th closure. All international interim trips were cancelled on March 2nd in what, at the time, may have seemed like an overabundance of caution to some. The domestic overnight interims were cancelled four days later, and eventually all local interims and off-campus programs as well.  

The decision to cancel off-campus trips and events did not come lightly. “The last few months have been surreal, and I have engaged in conversations I never thought I would have, including the complete canceling of a huge program that affects every Upper School student and takes months of coordination and countless hours of work to run,” said Ms. Coker, Dean of Upper School Student Activities. The Interim program is definitely a prized one and is something students look forward to in the preceding months. 

In order to make a well-informed decision, Coker, Mr. Baldwin, Ms. McGregor, the Business Office, the risk consultant, and other administrators were in constant daily contact. “We did not know at the time just how events would play out, but as we now see, this was the best and, in fact, the only course we could have taken,” explained Coker. It turned out to be the right move.  Shortly after the decision to cancel the international Interims, the CDC advised against international travel. 

Canceling the domestic overnight and local Interims were decided separately, but safety concerns ultimately drove the decision.

While the cancellations required careful thought, many students and faculty members felt sadness and frustration, including Abby Y. ’20, who was supposed to attend the Costa Rica Interim. “When I heard about the interim cancellation, I was really devastated, not just because I had that experience taken away but also because I can’t get the money back,” said Abby.  

Retrieving refunds for the Interim trips have been a complicated process. However, Ms. Coker explained that she is working with the Business Office to retrieve any money they can from the Interim trips. Depending on the outfitter, students can be eligible for vouchers. The school was able to recover a portion of the costs, but not the entire price. 

Other experiential learning opportunities, including the Youth Action Project (YAP), and two debate tournaments, were canceled as well. 

Many students were also looking forward to attending the debate tournaments, one being the Tournament of Champions. Students needed to qualify for both of the tournaments and were frustrated at not having the chance to demonstrate their hard work in person. “I think it was disappointing not to be able to demonstrate how much work we have put into our events over the year,” said Hana O. ’21. 

The sticker Cara W. ’21 created as a response to the Tournament of Champions’ cancellation.

Despite cancellations caused by COVID-19, some events plan to hold virtual meetings as a way to maintain programming. The virtual Tournament of Champions is set to run April 18th and 19th and the national tournament will be held in June.  Westridge is planning to hold a virtual conference for those students who were supposed to attend YAP. 

The biggest disappointment seems to be shared by the seniors. There is no substitute for the last hurrah of the shared experience of travelling abroad with classmates, or competing for the final time together. “I was really sad to miss out on the experience (. . .) that I was hoping would be really cleansing as a second semester senior who was awaiting college decisions at the time,” said senior Jamie G.