Education First offers Crescenta Valley students partial refund for canceled trip
A few possible solutions emerged for the families of Crescenta Valley High School students who canceled a spring break trip to Japan through the travel company Education First.
When Crescenta Valley High parents canceled their trip as a precaution to the novel coronavirus three weeks ago, Education First offered travel vouchers to reschedule for any date or destination available through their programs.
The voucher left some parents frustrated. They argued it would be difficult for seniors to reschedule a trip when they are no longer in high school. Others argued collecting about $3,500 per student is a hardship. Some pointed out that businesses, like the airline the students would have used to fly, were issuing cash refunds that are going back into the travel company’s pocket.
Parents wrote a letter asking the company for a refund. So far, the 31 Crescenta Valley High students have three options: reschedule the trip using the voucher, accept a partial refund or follow through with a class-action lawsuit.
As the coronavirus outbreak expanded, Education First canceled all company tours through April 30 and on Tuesday announced policy adjustments such as extending travel vouchers to be valid through Sept. 30, 2022.
Pia Hugo, the Crescenta Valley High teacher and trip chaperone, agreed to reschedule the tour for the group in December. She said about half the parents wanted to take the voucher.
“If they do that they actually get 100% of the value,” Hugo said.
The travel company is offering partial cash refunds, minus $1,000 of nonrefundable fees, as an alternative to the voucher.
“[The $1,000 fee] allows us to partially cover costs related to nonrecoverable payments to our suppliers, our staff and the investment we have always made and continue to make in itinerary, date and destination flexibility,” states the latest announcement on the company’s website.
Hugo, who has acted as a mediator between the parents and Education First spokespeople, said she hasn’t heard from all of the parents but knows of one who is willing to take a partial refund.
She is also aware of two parents who are likely to continue pursuing a lawsuit for a full refund.
Attorney William McGrane is spearheading the lawsuit and filed a state court case in San Diego Superior Court last week. The lead plaintiff in the case is Melissa Douglas, a parent from Nevada who paid $3,800 for one of her children to go on an Education First tour. McGrane is asking other parents in similar situations to reach out and join the lawsuit.
The attorney plans on filing a federal class-action lawsuit under California’s Unfair Competition Law that would have a judge approve any settlement offers, according to the attorney’s web page advertising legal services.
After the Crescenta Valley High group left a review through Yelp and told their story through news outlets, parents from various parts of the country reached out to Hugo asking for advice on how to deal with the travel company. Hugo, who has organized international trips tied to her world history class for more than a decade, offers the information and options she has gathered so far.
When a Crescenta Valley High parent asked if Hugo would consider organizing another trip next year, so that the student can use the Education First voucher, Hugo responded, “I’m sorry, but once I chaperone this group in December through EF, I’m done. I will never work with EF again.”