CORONAVIRUS: Palm Beach School District Slow To Refund Canceled Trips, Parents Angry

Coronavirus News Palm Beach County Schools

BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — Student trips, canceled by the Palm Beach County School District, have yet to be refunded — and school administrators are coming under fire from parents who say they’re doing nothing.

The annual “Safety Patrol” trip to Washington, DC — of course — isn’t happening. But for the thousands of 5th grade students countywide who raised funds and expected to go on the trip, the District has been providing excuses without refunds — often as much as $1000 per family.

“The tour company is still working to acquire refunds from all the vendors,” said a school official to parents.

“That’s crazy,” said a parent of a student in a central-Boca Raton area elementary school. “The (Palm Beach County) School District has the power to tell a tour company that it will no longer give it business if they don’t refund the money. Doing nothing, except give excuses, is just not okay.”

Students and parents at Olympic Heights High School in Boca Raton say the Palm Beach County School District did nothing for them when EF Tours — a Massachusetts-based company — refused to offer full refunds for European trips scheduled for the Spring. The tour company was allowed to advertise in the school system, but Palm Beach County School District officials looked the other way then company refused to refund the thousands of dollars each student paid.

EF Tours continues to be the subject of scrutiny nationwide. The Palm Beach County School District has not helped students obtain refunds.

“The school district should have had our backs,” said a parent. “Instead, officials turned their backs. It sends a bad message to kids who worked hard to raise money, only to have that money taken. And it’s a lot of money.”

It is unclear why there are refund delays. Airlines and hotels worldwide are issuing refunds in the midst of COVID-19. Why the Palm Beach County School District isn’t mandating that those refunds be immediately passed on to families who paid for tours remains unanswered.

A Palm Beach County School District Spokeswoman did not respond to multiple inquiries from BocaNewsNow.com on the issue over the past several months.

The Safety Patrol trip — which varies in price based on school — is an annual highlight for fifth graders. Students, serving on the Safety Patrol, travel to DC either by plane, train or bus — depending on which elementary school they attend. Both Southwest Airlines and JetBlue airlines — the airlines routinely used for the trip — are now refunding tickets as a matter of policy. Parents contacting BocaNewsNow.com, however, say the tour company used by the Palm Beach County School District isn’t passing those refunds on to the families who paid.

“The school district could simply say ‘refund the money or we’ll never use you again,’ to the tour company,” said a parent. “It seems that hasn’t happened. It’s not the school district’s job to keep a tour company in business. It is the school district’s job to make sure families aren’t swindled.”

We’ll update if a response is received from the Palm Beach County School District.