Plan A Student Trip in 2021
One Band Director Shares His Motivation for Traveling NOW
Inconsistency seems to be the only thing that’s consistent during the “new normal.” Remote instruction, in-person learning, hybrid, synchronous, asynchronous… we’ve had it all! As teachers and directors deal with the constantly changing landscape of educating during a pandemic, few are thinking about how to plan a student trip in 2021.
Jerry Whorton, Director of Bands at Melissa High School, is the exception. Not only is Jerry planning for 2021, but he also traveled with his students in December 2020! Yes, you read that correctly!! Mr. Whorton convinced his school district and parents that traveling to the UIL State Marching Contest in San Antonio, Texas was an excellent idea. And it was!
I had a chance to chat with Jerry about his trip and why it’s so important to keep kids traveling, especially now. He gave real answers, great advice, and tips for making it happen.
Who is Jerry Whorton?
Mr. Whorton is the Director of Bands at Melissa High School in Texas. He leads the Mighty Cardinal Marching Band, high school wind ensemble, and jazz ensemble.
He’s also made traveling with students a priority for 16 years.
Why do you feel so strongly about traveling with students?
I firmly believe that student travel plays a key role in creating a culture of success among student groups of all kinds. It encourages relationships based on trust while creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Some of my greatest memories as a child were on band trips. I was lucky enough to come from a family of educators. Both of my parents were band directors and understood that travel helps shape our perceptions of others and the world around us.
Unfortunately, many families cannot afford to travel with their families. Giving students an opportunity to see a little more of the world than their backyards is a huge advantage. It’s a chance to see new places, experience new adventures, and meet new friends!
Did you have support from your district to travel?
Yes! My community and district administration were thrilled to give our students this learning and performing opportunity for all the reasons mentioned above.
Did you have to take any special measures to secure permission?
No, nothing beyond the usual protocol. Of course, this goes back to how our district chose to handle our return to school. We established a “new-norm” while staying true to who we are.
Does your district have any specific policies in place regarding travel during COVID?
Much like every other school around the country, we have implemented typical risk mitigation policies. Keep your hands clean, wash as often as possible, and wear a face-covering on the bus.
We didn’t allow anyone experiencing symptoms of illness (beyond normal seasonal allergies) to travel. We also had rapid COVID tests available the morning of the trip to address any concerns by family or staff.
How did parents feel about their children traveling?
Most were okay, but that’s because we’ve built trust and maintained open communication since the beginning of the school year. Our parents had to have a great level of trust to support this trip. We made sure we talked through questions, concerns, and expectations as we planned the trip during a four-month period.
How did you (as the director) handle COVID precautions? Temp checks? Masks? Social distancing on buses?
I made it clear from the beginning that masks were a must at all times. Period. In our picture in front of the Alamo, we pulled masks down for the shot and right back up when it was done. No arguments!
We performed temp checks only if a student felt sick or looked questionable.
We kept our buses at full occupancy and had no problems (shout out to Overland Charters and Ric Bannister for a job well done!)
How do you feel the venues, hotel, and restaurants handled your group?
EVERYONE WANTS TO GET LIFE BACK TO NORMAL! Everyone was on high alert and was respectful of the situation. Hotels, restaurants, venues, etc. were more than accommodating to our students. Pre-packaged meals delivered to our performance venue, designated dining spaces, and individual attention were just a few of the highlights.
We stayed at the Drury Plaza Hotel San Antonio North Stone Oak and were thrilled with the care and attention our group received. Rooms were quad occupancy and the property was immaculately clean. They made sure we had the safest, most amazing stay possible. A HUGE thanks to Amy DeFrancesco and the Drury team!
How did Kaleidoscope Adventures handle your group?
Kaleidoscope Adventures created a seamless process from the moment we registered to the post-trip check-up! Melinda and George Strickland were an absolute pleasure to work with and provided my students with an incredibly rewarding travel experience. It was first class!
This was one of the easiest trips I have ever had the pleasure of organizing. I cannot recommend KA enough! They took a common-sense approach to the process and provided transparency throughout.
We even made payments through an ACH system (automated payments) which was a DREAM for our administration!
Any parting words of wisdom for groups considering travel in 2021?
DO IT! Be the trailblazer in your school district. Help bring balance and a sense of normalcy back to your students and families. Give them something to look forward to and strive for! Travel is such an important part of education, especially for those students who may not have a chance to go outside of school.
Don’t forget that booking a trip now will also save you big money! You can lock in lower rates and discounts in great student destinations by planning early.
These student trips are the moments your students will cherish forever -make them count! Plan a student trip in 2021!
Why Kaleidoscope Adventures?
As a leader in the student travel industry for 25+ years, Kaleidoscope Adventures exceeds expectations for student and performance group travel.
We'll work with you to plan an exceptional travel experience and provide impeccable customer service from start to finishLearn More