Briefly threatened by a travel company's apparent shutdown, a "rite of passage" for hundreds of Olentangy middle school students is back on after donors came through.
The Orange Middle School eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., was in jeopardy last week after Discovery Tours, the company the school contracted with, canceled its trips.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office is investigating the company.
Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a news release May 4 that his office has received more than 170 complaints about the company since May 2, "primarily from parents who said they were concerned about canceled school trips after they had paid the company hundreds of dollars."
The company reportedly canceled tours and school trips planned by districts throughout the state.
A message left on the company's voicemail was not returned. Its website appears to be down, with a message saying, "Please pardon the mess. We are upgrading!"
School officials also had trouble getting ahold of company representatives for a few days, said Krista Davis, district spokeswoman. On May 4, the district received an email from the company, saying all trips had been canceled, she said.
The trip cost $870 per student, and 260 students had paid, Davis said.
The trip was in limbo for only about 26 hours, Davis said, adding she credits the generosity of the community with helping to save the day.
"Everyone had sympathy for the kids. Everyone has fond memories of these types of trips," Davis said. "The No. 1 priority was figuring out a way to get the kids there."
Worthington-based Prodigy Tours stepped in and will manage the trip, scheduled May 15-18. The company handles trips for other Olentangy schools, including its four other middle schools, Davis said.
In addition to a donation from Prodigy, the district also received donations from the Orange Middle School Teachers Scholarship Fund and the Orange High School class of 2018. Funds will be used to help cover the cost of the new trip while the district and parents work to recoup money already paid to Discovery Tours.
"I cannot express enough our gratitude to those who have stepped up to help ensure this trip remains a reality," Orange Middle School Principal Scott Cunningham wrote in a letter to parents last week.
Cunningham said an informational meeting to update parents was scheduled for May 8.
The district is encouraging parents to file a complaint with the attorney general's office at tinyurl.com/olentangytrip or by calling 800-282-0515, or to contact their bank to dispute the charges.
The itinerary remains largely the same, but the trip is now a day shorter -- the result of having to scramble to rebook tours and hotel rooms, Davis said.
"The eighth-graders are thrilled," she said. "As a district, we are so proud of the community for stepping up."