The class of 2002 spent more than a year raising over $17,000 for this trip
through a variety of fundraising events including a dance, an auction and several
dinners and bottle drives. Class advisor Vicki Conover was impressed with how
hard each member of the class — which consisted, after all, of only four students
— worked to realize their monetary goal.

The group planned to tour Italy, France and Spain and, after comparing
costs and availability, they chose Travel Selections, an on-line travel agency, as
their tour coordinator. The trip was not booked until January, 2002, and the
group insured their trip against terrorist attacks through CSA Travel Protection
Company. Conover was assured that if the group canceled its travel plans
because of any kind of State Department Advisory about dangerous travel in the
regions they would be touring, they would be covered under this policy.

The group’s itinerary called for them to leave the island Thursday, March 28,
on the 7:30 a.m. ferry, catch the bus out of Lincolnville to Boston and then fly to
Italy for a nine-day tour of that country, plus southern France and Barcelona,
Spain, for nine days.

At 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27, Conover learned of a U.S. State
Department public announcement stating that they had “credible reports that
extremists are planning additional terrorist actions against U.S. interests” and
that “the U.S. Government has learned that a possible threat exists to U.S.
citizens in the cities of Venice, Florence, Milan and Verona on Easter Sunday.”
The ICS group was scheduled to be in Florence on Easter day.

Conover reports that “for the next five hours I attempted to contact our travel
agency to formulate an alternate plan (rerouting the trip around Italy), but they
would not return my calls. By 8:30 p.m., Jon Kerr [ICS principal] and I felt it was
necessary to get members of the group, their parents and School Committee
members together to make a decision. The School Committee had authorized
the trip with the condition that we wouldn’t travel if there was a State Department
advisory issued for any of the countries to which we were traveling. In light of the
public announcement, they couldn’t sanction our travel.”

The travel agency did not get back to Conover until 11:30 a.m. Thursday with
the news that if the group could get to Boston for a flight departing at 4:40 p.m.,
they could be rerouted around Italy. With the logistics of ferry travel and the
distance to Boston, there was no way the island group could make this flight in
time. They even checked with Telford Aviation in Owl’s Head about a flight to
Boston, but were informed that they still wouldn’t be able to make it in time for
the scheduled departure.

It was at this point that Conover pointed out to Travel Selections that the
group understood that their money would be refunded in the case of a State
Department travel advisory. The agency’s response was that the announcement
issued was not severe enough to warrant a refund, and that the insurance
company wouldn’t pay off except in the case of an actual “terrorist incident.”
Travel Selections also informed the group that they would not be able to recover
any of the cost of their hotel reservations or airline tickets.

The outcome appeared bleak, but support for the group’s jeopardized trip
materialized from several unexpected sources. With help from a parent familiar
with airline policies, Conover was able to get Lufthansa airlines to rewrite their
tickets for a postponed time frame — minus a penalty of $150.00 per ticket. A
successful appeal was made to the Islesboro Community Fund, a grant from the
organization IRACOBE was received, and Islesboro’s School Committee agreed
to make up the remaining deficit.

On April 23, 2002, the Islesboro group received a refund of $418.00 from
Travel Selections. The company claimed to have made every possible effort to
recover funds paid, but had not been successful. They wrote that, “Unfortunately,
this small amount (about $70.00 per person) is all that we have been able to
recover. I do wish we could have been more successful for you.” The agency
had no comment on its inability or unwillingness to negotiate with Lufthansa as
successfully as Conover had herself done on the group’s behalf.

After a hectic round of calls to other travel agencies looking for an already-
planned group tour that could include the small Islesboro group, the 2002 class
hooked up with another agency, Explorica. On May 20, the Islesboro group
embarked on a 10-day “highlight tour” of London, Paris and Rome. The group
with whom they traveled included a public school group from Nebraska and a
private school group from Florida. According to Conover and chaperone Craig
Delaney, the Islesboro students were polite, enthusiastic and punctual
throughout the trip.

Looking back on the whole experience, Conover feels that the School
Committee’s decision to cancel the original trip was correct because “you don’t
take other people’s children and put them in harm’s way.” Conover advises other
school traveling groups to exercise care in the selection of a travel agency —
and get all assurances in writing.

While students, sponsors and chaperones alike are happy to have been able
to pull off their trip abroad, they don’t advise any group to tour three countries in
10 days, computing that they must have walked at least 12 miles a day. But even
with this caveat, they’re deeply grateful for the community support that made it
possible for them to take this trip at all.