Smith cancels two school trips because of war fears |

Smith cancels two school trips because of war fears

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit School District has suffered the first local war casualty. Schools Superintendent Wes Smith canceled two upcoming school trips – the high school’s Summit Singers’ trip to Italy next week and a middle school trip to Washington, D.C., during spring break.

“I regret that I had to do this,” Smith said. “I thought about it long and hard, but I have no choice when I’m dealing with the lives of other people’s children.”

Smith reviewed the international situation with the Iraqi war as well as the school district’s policy before coming to his decision. He considered the strong anti-American sentiment in foreign countries and the U.S. State Department’s advisory on international travel.

“In my lifetime, other than right after Sept. 11, I don’t know when the danger to Americans traveling abroad has been greater than it is right now,” Smith said. “I’m responsible for the safety of students and I am responsible for the safety of other people’s kids – I take that very seriously. You hate to think of how hard the kids worked for the trip and the disappointment of the cancellation, however, this is one of the consequences of the world we live in today.”

Fifteen members of the Summit Singers and six adult chaperones were scheduled to leave for Verona, Italy, for the International Days of Choral Music – an international choral competition – Monday, March 31.

Both the high school students and their parents involved with the Italy trip are disappointed with the cancellation, said Cathie Hill, high school choral director. The kids worked hard both preparing for the competition and to raise money for the trip. If the trip is canceled, they stand to lose about $48,000.

“They’re heartbroken,” Hill said. “The kids have done everything – and the parents. That’s the thing that was so difficult, because we were so close.”

They are so disappointed, in fact, they plan to ask the school board Wednesday to reconsider Smith’s decision.

According to Hill, they are the only one of the five American groups heading to the competition to cancel.

“We’re hoping they’ll release us from the school sponsorship and allow the parents to take responsibility,” Hill said. “That’s one possibility. Another possibility is that we reschedule, but I don’t know when things are going to look better.”

The school board has the ability to reverse the superintendent’s decision, Smith said, but he will not change his position.

“Ultimately, it comes down to what kind of risk I’m willing to assume and, personally, I’m not going to do it,” he said. “The odds are it’ll be fine. It’s just the other part of that … the cost would be ridiculous, and I would not be able to give myself any kind of defense for doing it.”

A small middle school trip to Washington, D.C., also was canceled because of security and safety concerns. Those students had not yet been notified as of Monday afternoon.

Summit Middle School Principal Iva Katz-Hesse met separately with Smith and Bethany Lambrecht – the teacher who sponsored the trip – Monday morning about the decision.

The security concerns for those traveling to the nation’s capital are as great – if not greater – than for the group going to Italy, Smith said.

“These are scary times, and we want to make sure we do the right thing, the safe thing,” Katz-Hesse said. “I think we all feel sad about having to cancel the trip, but I think we all realize these are extraordinary times.”

Smith said a high school band trip to Hawaii in June has not yet been canceled.

“We’re keeping our options open, it’s too far in advance,” he said. But “they need to be aware that this could happen.”

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or

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