Lakeland’s trip to Costa Rica is on
MINOCQUA – The Lakeland district school board has approved the Spanish Club’s trip to Costa Rica but added a few requirements to protect the students’ safety and the district’s exposure to potential lawsuits.
Spanish teacher Karen GriesRoehrich explained that the trip would occur in June of next year if the board concurred. Not only will the students learn about the geographical aspects of the county, but also will be staying with host families during their stay. The itinerary includes trips to the rainforest, pineapple and coffee plantations and to school or daycare facilities.
District Administrator Claire Martin said there was a “disconnect” between teachers and administration about needing approval for out-of-country trips. Teachers apparently thought if it was similar to ones that had been taken before they didn’t need to come to the board. Martin said that’s contrary to board policy.
However, she did recommended approval, contingent upon some safeguards. After consultations with the district’s insurance carrier and legal counsel, she recommended the following: Participants must have travel insurance in case they get sick, especially from COVID-19 and have to quarantine in Costa Rica. They must also follow all COVID-19 regulations of the host company, as well as that of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents or guardians have to sign waivers of liability to hold the district harmless in case of an incident or injury.
Board member Heidi Fink brought up concerns about crime in foreign countries and whether students would be at risk. She was subsequently the only board member opposed to the trip.
GriesRoehrich responded: “In terms of the years I’ve traveled, Costa Rica is by far the safest and most stable.” Students will be clustered in a small neighborhood with their host families, she explained. She and one other LUHS staff member, as well as three parents (one being a nurse), will accompany students when they are not with their host families, she added.
“I have been working with this travel company for more than a decade”: she added. The travel agency sent a different group last year to Costa Rica, “It went off without a hitch, and that was during the thick of COVID.”
GriesRoehrich said initially 22 students had expressed interest, but now the number stands at 15-16. Part of the reason for the reduction in numbers might be that a few did not want to be vaccinated as being required by the Costa Rica government, she allowed.
Per the motion, the district will pick up the travel insurance cost for the two staff members accompanying the students, but not for the parents.