WSAZ Investigates | Still no school trip refunds

What should have been the trip of a lifetime is more like a nightmare for hundreds of parents in Cabell County.
Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 6:21 PM EST
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - It’s been more than a year and a half since 260 eighth-graders in Cabell County were supposed to head off to the nation’s Capitol for the trip of a lifetime.

But that trip, like so many others, was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions when travel was halted.

Now parents and guardians are still holding empty purses, wondering where their money is and why they still haven’t been refunded.

WSAZ first reported on this story in July 2020. Students were to pay $800 each for a four-day trip to Washington D.C. from May 3 to May 6. Now, 576 days later, parents still don’t have the money in hand.

“To some people, $1,600 might not be a lot but it is to a lot of families,” said Mary Jobe. “But to be left just hanging, it’s just unbelievable.”

Jobe is raising her two grandchildren on a fixed income. Not only has this ordeal been difficult on her, but also tough on the children, who missed out on an incredible experience.

“My kids were hurt for a long time,” she said. “I mean, we still talk about it today.”

School paperwork given to parents indicated that no refunds would be given unless the school canceled the trip.

News Channel 3′s Kelsey Souto has been asking questions since we first heard of the issue. When we initially contacted Cabell County School District in July 2020 to find out what was being done to get the money back, an hour before our story aired, parents got a robot call from the district, saying they filed a complaint with the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office in hopes of resolving the dispute.

Parents say not long after they received a letter from the school system with an update on July 23, 2020. But that’s the last they’ve heard about it.

“All people want is to be recognized and know that something is being done or whose enjoying the money,” Jobe said.

WSAZ spoke Tuesday with Sherrone Hornbuckle, chief legal counsel for the school district. She confirms the district has cut ties with Eric Morrison and E.T. Advisors, the company they entered into an agreement with to plan the trips.

They say they have also since updated their policies and procedures regarding contracts with vendors.

Hornbuckle provided the following statement:

“We understand the hardship this puts parents under. We are continuing to work diligently to retrieve the funds for families. We will exhaust every legal remedy to make those families whole.”

Sherrone Hornbuckle, Chief Legal Counsel for Cabell County Schools

It’s a financial hole Jobe says she’s still trying to dig herself out of and won’t be filled overnight.

“That’s why I contacted you,” she told WSAZ. “I just don’t think this should be swept under the rug.”

The school district confirms that E. T. Advisors is still in business.

WSAZ reached out to the new attorney for Eric Morrison who says:

“The agreement was with the schools and they should’ve made it right with parents when it happened. It’s an unfortunate situation and we are actively engaged with the schools attorney and hope to get the situation resolved soon.”

Paul Ellis, attorney

Mediation is being planned for both parties through the Attorney General’s office in the coming weeks.

To read our previous coverage, tap here.

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