Coronavirus outbreak threatens spring break exchange trips


Ryan Barich, Executive News Editor

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Pictured is a health checkpoint at an airport in Bologna, Italy.

Since Jan. 22, the Coronavirus has been vastly present in Italy as the number of confirmed cases has exceeded 1,000, mostly in the northern area of the country.

29 of those cases have turned fatal (as of Feb. 29) as the European outbreak continues. The coronavirus outbreak has grown so intense that it has forced Japan, North Korea and South Korea to declare states of emergency.

Other countries across the world debate closing their borders to prevent the spread; while here in Mount Prospect, the reigning debate is whether or not the students involved in the foreign language exchange trips will be able to go on those trips.

There are three trips planned in the program — France, Italy and Spain — but on Feb. 27, the administration of Prospect High School met to discuss the risks of keeping the exchange trips active.

Senior Teagan Boyle is part of the Italian exchange and has been trying to find clear and concise answers on the fate of her European excursion.

“The channels for communication are more than clogged,” Boyle said. “I know there’s got to be so much to handle on [the administration’s] end, but the students should be in the know in some way.”

Assistant Principal Frank Mirandola had no information to share with The Prospector after the meeting and expects further deliberations to continue into next week.

The lack of proven information has led to much speculation among the students at Prospect over what is really to happen. Even students going on non-exchange, school sponsored trips —Ireland and Germany for example— fear their trips are also in danger.

Luckily for them, those trips are run through other sponsors and the only chance at cancellation are from their say so, not Prospect administration’s.

The exchange programs are completely under administration control though, and students speculate that if the Italy trip is cancelled by the administration, then the other trips will follow suite because it would be the fair option.

“This isn’t kindergarten, it’d be a shame for anybody to miss their trip, but why should every student pay the price,” Boyle said.

Boyle has made it apparent that the trips mean more to the foreign language than just a chance to see the sights. These students are really more concerned with reuniting with the exchange students that visited Prospect from the European countries.

“We made real bonds with these people,” Boyle said. “Them being halfway across the world is hard on all of us. Snapchat and texting only goes so far.”

As the administration continues to meet, and as airline companies deliberate over whether or not to cancel all outgoing flights to Italy, the Prospector will keep its viewers updated.