29 Darien middle school students 'stuck' in Paris
The majority of Darien Public School students and teachers returned to the classroom on Monday morning, after a week-long spring break. But 29 Middlesex Middle School students and two teachers are still in Europe, where they have been delayed from flying home due to the volcanic explosion in Iceland, which has crippled the flow of air traffic around the continent since last week.
As of Monday, the travelers are scheduled to return to Darien on Thursday, according to Eric Beato, executive director of communications for EF Educational Tours, the Massachusetts-based company through which the tour was planned.
"They were due back [Sunday] afternoon, but obviously flights across Europe were affected by the volcanic ash," Beato said in a phone interview. "We're doing everything we can to get the group home as quickly and safely as possible while also making sure they're having a wonderful, fun and educational experience."
The group left New York City on Friday, April 10, and arrived in Amsterdam the next day, according to Beato. The original itinerary included two nights in Amsterdam, four nights in Paris and one night in the Loire Valley. While the group saw some of Paris' famous landmarks on the planned part of its tour -- like Notre Dame Cathedral, Les Invalides, the Conciergerie, Saint Chapelle and the Eiffel Tower -- there were several Parisian points of interest the group was not originally able to fit in.
"During its extended stay in Paris, the group was able to visit the Louvre and shop along the Champs-Elysees [Sunday]. [Monday], they were planning to visit the Latin Quarter," Beato wrote in an e-mail.
"There are certainly a lot of fascinating and educational things to do in Paris, and we're glad they're making the most of their time," Beato said.
Middlesex Social Studies Teacher Frank Keen, who is serving as the group leader, is working with the tour director to plan additional activities for the students and chaperones during the remainder of their stay.
"We have a very nice hotel in Paris and three solid meals a day so we are not suffering at all, but actually taking advantage of the situation and having a wonderful time," Keen wrote in an e-mail on Monday morning.
The company is covering all the additional expenses due to the transportation hurdle, including the group's hotel, meals, tour director and daily activities, according to Beato.
The tour company is the largest student-travel provider in the country, according to Beato, and is in no way affiliated with the school system. The company works to match up educational vacations with school vacations to provide students with a chance to learn about and explore interesting locations without missing school, Beato said.
"They're safe and sound, and they're having a lovely time in Paris," said Middlesex Principal Debbi Boccanfuso on Monday. "And Frank Keen is the trip organizer. He's traveled the world, so if you're going to be `stuck' with anyone, it's good to be stuck with him."
The students will receive "unexcused absences" for each day they miss, according to school policy, Boccanfuso said.