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Coronavirus concerns cancel city school China trip

The coronavirus outbreak originating in China — which as of Friday had killed at least 213 people and afflicted nearly 10,000 worldwide — has produced a “casualty” close to home: a scheduled Mount Airy High School trip.

Eleven students and three chaperones were planning to visit Chengdu, China, in March, according to Mount Airy High School Assistant Principal Kevin Joyce. This was arranged as part of an ongoing cultural-exchange program in which students of the local campus and counterparts in that country collaborate and interact throughout the academic year.

But the coronavirus situation has prompted city school officials to halt the trip.

“Mount Airy High School and Mount Airy City Schools will always make decisions with the safety of our students as our top priority,” says an announcement posted on the system’s website.

“With that being said, due to the impact of the coronavirus in China, we have made the decision to cancel the trip to Chengdu, China, for March 2020,” it continues.

Along with concerns raised in the U.S. about the health threat posed by the potentially deadly disease, travel restrictions are a factor.

It was disclosed Friday that Delta Air Lines and American Airlines were suspending service to mainland China as of next Thursday, including all flights to and from that country, through March 27. The U.S. government also issued a travel warning as a growing number of countries are evacuating their citizens and diplomats from parts of China.

Numerous media reports about the crisis naturally have raised an alarm among parents in the local community in light of plans for the upcoming trip, including the fear that even if the group reached China it might have difficulty returning.

That has happened with foreigners being stranded in the Wuhan area of China which was hit by the virus, and Americans flying from that area being quarantined once arriving back in the States.

“We have kept parents informed on the status of the trip and that student safety would be the most important factor in any decision on the trip to Chengdu,” added Joyce.

To resume in future

The website announcement posted by city school officials states that the present problems surrounding the coronavirus represent only a temporary stoppage of what is referred to as Mount Airy’s “Chinese Program.”

“We plan to continue our partnership with China and hope to offer an opportunity for student travel to China in the 2020-2021 school year,” it says.

Representatives of Mount Airy and China have settled into a pattern of periodic visits between the two over the past few years.

Joyce mentioned that the three chaperones who were part of the scheduled March visit “all have experience traveling in China.”

He explained that the trip was planned in conjunction with the Chinese Program and Global Partnership Initiative in which Mount Airy High School works with a partner school in China and the Go Global NC international education and training effort.

This is designed to provide networking opportunities for local students and those in Chengdu.

“Traveling to China and hosting students from China has been a highlight and a great learning experience for many of our students,” Dr. Kim Morrison, city schools superintendent, said in information she provided on various programs, including that involving the East Asian nation.

“We have teachers come from China to teach Mandarin Chinese to our middle school and high school students because industries here in Mount Airy need employees that understand Chinese language and culture.”

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Representatives of Mount Airy City Schools are pictured during a previous visit to China in 2016, including, from left, Alicia Henson, Jesse Hiatt, Ben Cooke, Kevin Joyce and Wendy Carriker. of Mount Airy City Schools are pictured during a previous visit to China in 2016, including, from left, Alicia Henson, Jesse Hiatt, Ben Cooke, Kevin Joyce and Wendy Carriker.

By Tom Joyce

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.



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