Coronavirus cancels Darien High China exchange trip this spring

After a challenge with Visas in 2018, the China exchange program at Darien High School seemed be back in full force in the fall of 2019.

The Chinese students of Shanghai were denied Visas to travel to the United States in 2018.

But this spring, the outbreak of coronavirus has caused Darien High School to cancel students’ visit to China. Darien Schools Superintendent Alan Addley told The Darien Times the full year class will continue to be offered and supplemented with other experiences.

“It is very unfortunate that the trip had to be canceled, but realistically it is the most prudent option. Our families have been very understanding,” he said.

The Center for Disease Control currently recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the People’s Republic of China.

According to the CDC, an outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019, and has spread throughout China and to 31 other countries and territories, including the United States. As of Feb. 23, 2020, there were 76,936 reported cases in mainland China and 1,875 cases in locations outside mainland China . There have been 2,462 associated deaths worldwide; no deaths have been reported in the United States. Fourteen cases have been diagnosed in the United States, and an additional 39 cases have occurred among repatriated persons from high-risk settings, for a current total of 53 cases within the United States.

An email from Jennifer Murphy of the History Department told parents of other options to make the best of the semester.

“I know we were all hoping it would turn out differently. There is no way around the fact that the Spring Semester will be very different without the excitement and rewarding experience of travel,” Murphy said in her email.

“I'm working on revising our schedule to provide as many new opportunities to take day trips and have experts in the field come to visit, as this kind of "experiential learning" is the basis for the course,” she said.

Options to make up for the trip cancellation include making dumplings, holding a tea ceremony, a visit to Buddhist Temple, a Tai Chi lesson, a lesson on Chinese calligraphy and a lesson on Tang Dynasty poetry, among other things.

This spring cancellation doesn’t mean the end of the program.

“Certainly, we would hope and expect to offer the trip experience as part of the next class for next year,” Addley said.

“The course will be offered as part of the student course registration for next year,” he said.

The Darien-China Youth Exchange program began in 2001 with the help of a grant from the U.S. State Department. The program is meant to engage students from Darien High School and Qingdao #58 High School of China’s Shandong Province in an educational and cultural exchange. Prior to 2007, DHS was partnered with Shanghai #3 Girls’ School.

Chinese students typically arrive in Darien at the start of the school year, staying for a week or more. In addition to experiencing life in Darien, students travel to New York City and Washington D.C., to gain a better grasp of American life. Darien’s students complete the exchange each April, staying with their host families for three weeks.