WSAZ Investigates | Parents seek refund in canceled school trip

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 6:57 PM EDT
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BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) - What should’ve been a trip of a lifetime, turned to disappointment for several local 8th graders who were headed on a trip to the nation’s Capitol.

The experience has also left their parents with giant holes in their pockets.

“The forms did say, there will be no refunds unless the school cancels the trip,” said Stacey Whitmore. “Well, the school did cancel the trip.”

Several parents reached out to WSAZ looking for help, because they haven’t received a refund for their students trip to Washington D.C. that was scheduled in May.

Like so many others, the trip which cost $800 was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“It is a lot of money to a lot of people and it would just be nice to know that they haven’t forgotten about us,” said Whitmore.

Other parents who didn’t want to be identified on camera say they paid Barboursville Middle School over time and the school then sent that money on to a travel agency they used to book the trip.

Many admitted they had no idea, until recently, that a travel agency was even involved in the process.

“It ain’t fair to the kids, take us out of the equation, it ain’t fair to the kids,” said one mother.

These moms say many of the kids actually worked to raise the money themselves.

“My child, they were told if they can prove their willing to earn some money we would match them dollar for dollar,” said one mom. “My child was actually out there mowing lawns, cleaning barns out of horse manure, cow manure, clean the family members houses.”

We reached out to Cabell County Schools several times to see why families haven’t been reimbursed. Each time, we were told they could not discuss an on-going legal issue.

“All we want is our money back to give to our kids because we could do something with that money or let them buy something with that money,” said another mom.

We reached out to the travel agent the parents believe was used to book the trip and made contact with him. He referred us to his attorney. When we stopped by the office the door was locked. The attorney later called and said he could not comment on an on-going legal matter.

The school district sent out a robocall an hour before our story aired, and in it, they confirm that E. T. Advisors was the travel agency used, but says “because the contracts are directly between the parents and the travel company, the districts options are limited. However, our legal counsel has filed a complaint with the West Virginia Attorney General and we are awaiting a date for mediation, which is the first step toward reaching a solution. While we can’t make any promises we hope this process will result in some restitution to parents from the travel company.”

These parents agree that the entire ordeal has been hardest on the students. Not only did they miss out on a priceless opportunity, but that money could’ve gone towards another summer experience.

“I don’t understand how a company can get away with taking all this money from parents and not returning it,” said Whitmore.

The only money returned went to the parents who had paid the trip in full. They received a single refund check for $152.08 because they say that is the only money that hadn’t been turned over to the travel agency yet.

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