Knox Co. parents say school trip canceled, full refund not offered

Cropped Photo: Ted Eytan / CC BY-SA 2.0

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Dozens of Knox County parents are upset after they said a school trip to Washington D.C. was canceled amid the coronavirus outbreak. Many aren't mad just due to the cancellation, but because they say they won't be getting a full refund.

The trip was designed for elementary school students who are a part of the safety patrol at their school. The trip was scheduled to take place May 29-June 1. It cost $609 per student.

Go Student Tours organized the trip and handles all payments. After coordinating with Knox County Schools, the company decided to cancel the trip through a letter sent to parents on March 18.

“Even though the contract you signed contains a clear no refund clause, we are breaking with the industry and are doing our part to help,” Kate Scopetti, Presided of Go Student Tours wrote. “All of your cleared payments will be refunded but for a $200 per traveler cancelation fee, (which does not cover costs already expended by Go Student Tours on your behalf)."

Parents like Heather Holleman said it's not fair given the circumstances.

"I am OK with being out of school as a precaution," Holleman said. "We all are very upset with Go Student Tours response and Knox County Schools' lack in responsibility."

She and other parents said they've reached out to the school district for help, but aren't happy with their response either. She reached out to Knox County Elementary Supervisor Adam Parker. She said he told her knowing all tour deposits were nonrefundable, the decision was made to ensure student safety and make sure no additional funds would be lost for families.

Other parents like Megan Belcher said they are frustrated too. "This is about doing the right thing and having the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on a child’s life by helping their family during a time of crisis,"Belcher said.

She knows the company had a no refund policy but said the circumstances in this case are different.

"Companies all over the country are having to make difficult decisions for the security and protection of clients," Belcher said. "It is disappointing when someone chooses not to take that path."

Go Student tours posted a further explanation on their Facebook page, after several parents reached out to the company. Scopetti tried to explain further why parents would not be receiving a full refund.

"Group travel programs require a significant amount of upfront planning and financial investment to secure the best trip experiences for our travelers at the best price and that’s why we collect money far in advance," Scopetti wrote. "Our standard refund policy is based on the nature of our unrecoverable investment when a trip cancels, especially so close to its start date. These costs include, but are not limited to, deposits to hotels, restaurants, and tickets (some of which are timed) at tour destinations - all of these costs are incurred in advance and allow Go Student Tours to get bulk pricing that is passed on to you upfront in the form of reduced per person package pricing. Go Student Tours is also subject to a “no refund policy” by many of these businesses. In addition, Go Student Tours incurs costs immediately, such as credit card processing fees, costs of travel that our employees incur to meet with entities in Washington D.C., such as the U.S. Capitol, the school representatives who assisted the parents in setting up the tour at its inception, and many others. Go Student Tours also incurs bookkeeping costs, reservation systems expense, technology expense, accounting fees, advertising expenses, health and business insurance, interest, legal fees, employee salaries, travel expenditures, and other fixed costs."

WVLT News reached out Scopetti for further information but have yet to hear back from her.

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