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Monday, October 7th, 2013

Shutdown forces schools to review D.C. trips

Officials planning alternative arrangements, visiting replacement sites

By Margie Wuebker
The continuing federal government shutdown is having an impact locally as area schools plan trips to the nation's capital.
Students at Minster Local Schools are scheduled to depart for Washington, D.C., on Oct. 20. Parents, school officials and representatives of Celina-based K & K Tours met last week to discuss the situation.
"We will still go but with some alternative arrangements," Superintendent Brenda Boeke said. "It is an unfortunate side effect to what's taking place there that is impacting our students. Hopefully, the powers that be will settle everything soon."
Tour company owner Dave Macwhinney is working with contacts in Washington to find interesting and educational sites as replacements for closed venues.
"There is so much to see that we can never fit into our schedule," he told The Daily Standard. "We do a lot of teaching on the trip and that will continue despite the shutdown. The kids going this time around will see different things than their older brothers and sisters."
Macwhinney, who monitors the situation on a daily basis, declined to comment on the alternative sites.
A search for replacement sites began two weeks ago; the company handles about 50 school-related tours each year.
"We continually stress the importance of patriotism, history and freedom," he said. "And a government shutdown has little effect in that regard."
Macwhinney said schools submit a list of requested sites at least a year before departure. The White House ranks high on those lists, but he said President Barack Obama eliminated the possibility of such visits even before the shutdown.
Marlene Springer, eighth-grade trip coordinator for Coldwater Exempted Village Schools, said a decision about the school's Oct. 27 trip could be made later this week.
One option includes going as planned with Bob Rogers Travel Co., the school's Illinois-based excursion company, and replacing currently-closed venues such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian Museum with alternatives. Changes may entail additional changes, according to school officials. The other option involves canceling and rescheduling the trip.
"We have to talk with parents and chaperones before making a final decision," Springer said. "And we would have to see which dates might be available later."
Springer, who once went to Washington, D.C., in the midst of another government shutdown, wondered why such sites as the World War II and Vietnam memorials are barricaded to the public. She also noted standing at a barricade and explaining to students what they would have seen inside deter from the overall educational value of the trip.
This is not the first time a Coldwater eighth-grade trips has been impacted by unforeseen complications. Last year's trip was rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy.
Some tourist attractions remain open despite the shutdown, including the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where visitors can watch money printed.
Visitors may also still visit the 624-acre Arlington National Cemetery - the largest cemetery for U.S. military veterans and their families. The ceremonial changing of the guard goes on because military functions remain unaffected.
Other venues remaining open include Ford's Theatre, the site of Abraham Lincoln's assassination; the Eccles Building, which houses the headquarters of the Federal Reserve Board; the Newseum, where visitors can experience five centuries of news history with state-of-the-art technology and hands-on exhibits; the National Building Museum, which salutes construction history; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art and The Phillips Collection.
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