Discovery Tours, the company in charge of coordinating the Mentor Public Schools eighth-grade trip to Washington D.C. that got canceled 12 hours before departure, has reportedly let down eighth-graders at other school across Northeast Ohio.
The Discovery Tours administrative office in Mayfield was locked Thursday when News 5 was there as district officials showed up during a last-ditch effort to communicate with them. They said no one at the company is answering their phone calls.
The office building's manager told News 5 he hasn't seen anyone from Discovery Tours in days.
Perry, Rocky River, Chardon, Hudson, North Royalton and Twinsburg school districts are all reporting issues with upcoming trips. And there's even more schools potentially involved.
"We've tried to contact them via phone and have not been successful," Twinsburg Schools Superintendent Kathryn Powers said.
Powers has been working round the clock with the school board over the past 48 hours to make sure their trip planned for next week doesn't get canceled.
"Because this has caught us off guard, we are quickly trying to determine what the situation is and then try to resolve it in less than a week for our students," Powers said.
But the only reason her 300 eighth graders won't miss out on their D.C. trip next week is because the district is going to front the costs parents already paid Discovery Tours directly.
Twinsburg eighth-grade parents paid Discovery Tours $385 for each student. That's money Twinsburg Schools will now pull from its budget to make sure the trip still happens and then try to get reimbursed, a decision the school board made Wednesday night.
"We are looking to see how the insurance coverage piece works in this matter," Powers said.
As it turns out, problems with the Twinsburg trip to D.C. began months ago, and they didn't even know.
Powers said she found out Thursday that some of their activities in Gettysburg were canceled by Discovery Tours back in February.
"When our principal contacted Gettysburg they said now they don't have space in their calendar for us," Powers said.
And Twinsburg is far from alone.
Hudson School District released a statement detailing two trips it had booked with the company for the end of the month — to D.C. and to Michigan — with 572 students scheduled to participate.
"We strongly believe that our field trips will not be taking place through Discovery Tours," the district said.
Hudson just learned that hotel reservations were canceled and charter bus payments haven't been made.
A trip to Chicago for LaMuth Middle School students in Painesville is also in jeopardy. School officials said neither the hotel nor the bus company have been paid in full and none of the promised activities have been paid for. The school is trying to confirm the outstanding amount due, but with the trip scheduled to leave Wednesday, May 9, they don't have much time to figure out alternatives to try and salvage the trip.
Officials from each district said they realized the problem when they checked on reservations with vendors themselves. They said Discovery Tours had told each of them their arrangements had been finalized, but they're quickly finding out that isn't the case.
In an email from Discovery Tours on Wednesday, its only communication with News 5, the company claimed the D.C. hotel reserved for Mentor students was paid in full, but still canceled the trip and kept the money.
But Mentor's superintendent said hotel management was advised by legal council only to say, "Discovery Tours was unable to meet contractual obligations."
North Royalton School District said its D.C. trip scheduled for May 9-11 will be taking place as planned. The district said it has been able to confirm and secure hotel rooms, buses and activities.
Things are also looking up for Chagrin Falls School District as is works with its hotel and bus vendor to iron out the details. The district said the companies they are working with have been very helpful and it is working to secure the necessary funds to make the trip possible.
Traveling Classrooms, a tour group, said is working to provide free guide services to schools who are having issues with Discovery Tours, as long as its resources are available.
News 5 reached out to Discovery Tours for a comment Thursday on the mounting number of districts expressing issues and concerns, but we have not heard back.
Until now, there have been no issues like this reported with the company.