OP-ED: Baguettes, Berets and Betrayal


Caroline Michailoff, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Senior

February break of 2022 the students of upper level French courses were planning to travel to France with the school. This opportunity offered them the chance to immerse themselves in French art, history, and culture after studying the language for so many years. Twenty-seven French students, all seniors, were signed up to go on this trip, all excited to attend especially after their trip in October 2020 had been canceled due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, after already having been let down once, the seniors were not able to embark on this valuable experience because the school administration decided in late January to cancel the second trip. 

This is disappointing for the senior class. After the trip was planned in October and received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback, it seemed unfair to cancel the trip with less than one month away from the departure date. 

Mrs. Livaditis, French teacher and organizer of the trip, wrote in an email to students and parents saying, “Please know that I was super confident and excited to provide this opportunity. Unfortunately, I regret to inform you that the school district has made a decision to cancel the trip.”

The trip was completely self-funded, and students and their families knew the risks they were taking when signing up for the trip. If everyone who planned to attend the trip was aware of the circumstances and were willing to go, then why should school administrators get to make the decision for them that they can’t go ?

While families got their money back for most of the trip, this will be the second time students have had to pay the insurance fee because of the school’s decision to cancel. The travel company was completely supportive and very organized with COVID precautions. Other schools were even able to travel to France during the holiday break, when COVID was peaking and, as far as we know,  not a single person who attended those trips tested positive. Not only did attendees need to have a negative COVID test to leave the US and to return, they also had to be double vaxxed, making the possibility of someone contracting COVID exponentially smaller. Currently, COVID cases are rapidly decreasing. For PMHS, which is considered an exemplary school, this is not a good look. Administration already decided to cut the language lab in half, where foreign language classes would go to learn in different ways. Now, going from 60 to 30 seats, the language lab is much less accessible as it is shared among all high school and middle school foreign language classes. This makes it seem as though the new school administrators do not value the foreign language program the same way the old administration did.

Senior Charlotte Nanda, who signed up for both trips, said, “I was really sad to hear that the France trip was canceled, since we had been looking forward to it for a couple of years.”

Initially, when the France trip was approved in October, the United States Department of State Travel’s warning for France was a Level 4 Do Not Travel due to COVID. In Mr. Berkowitz’s email out to parents and students on why the trip was canceled, he used the fact that France is currently a Level 4 as reasoning to cancel the trip. It seems very odd that administration willingly approved the trip knowing France was a Level 4 Do Not Travel and then canceled it for that same reason. It is unfair to the students, particularly seniors, who will not get another chance to travel to France with their classmates and learn about French culture, to have the trip taken from them for a second time.

Mr. Berkowitz also included in his email that “terriorism and civil unrest” was another reason for canceling the trip. This excuse is not relevant seeing as if France was truly an unsafe country for travel, the school and parents would have never approved in the first place. It seems as though the administration is just making excuses for canceling the trip to cover for themselves and their true reasons. 

The school did not bother to take any opinions from anyone else. Their decision was made without input from Mrs. Livaditis, the travel company, or parents and students. If they had reached out, they would have learned that everyone on board was willing to take the risk, and that the travel company had done a phenomenal job to get us there and back safely.