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Parents left without refund after Westmount High postpones trip to Europe amid COVID-19 outbreak

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WATCH: Tips for travelling amid ongoing coronavirus concerns

One day before Westmount High senior students were set to leave on an 11-day trip to northern Italy and Greece, parents and students were advised by the school that the trip had been postponed.

The school and the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) cited the global outbreak of COVID-19 as the reason for postponing the trip, likely to June, said EMSB spokesperson Michael Cohen. More specifically, they cited the recent outbreak in northern Italy.

The Canadian government does not have an official travel warning in place for Italy, but does caution travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in the country’s northern areas due to the spread of the new coronavirus.

Anna Mittag, a parent of a Grade 11 student who was set to leave on the trip on Thursday, told Global News her son isn’t available to go on the trip later this year because he has a summer job and family plans.

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Mittag said the only refund option that was made available to her was a voucher for EF Educational Tours, the tour that organized the trip.

Mittag said she would have to sell the voucher to a parent whose teenager is going on the same Westmount High Europe trip next year to get her money back.

READ MORE: Montreal has first presumptive case of COVID-19, Quebec health minister says

“The solution of selling the voucher to someone next year is the most slapdash, band-aid, ridiculous solution,” Mittag said. “[It] puts the onus entirely on the parents, and most of us won’t even be affiliated with this school anymore next year.”

The mother of the Westmount High student said her family has been saving up for the trip, which amounted to around $4,000, for several years. She added that her son has been working and saving up for it and his grandfather pitched in, too.

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Cohen told Global News EF Educational Tours has been generous with its voucher offer, saying the company wouldn’t usually offer anything at all unless the Canadian government issued an official travel warning to Italy.

In a statement, EF Educational Tours said it is offering parents a “reimbursement in the form of a transferable travel voucher, seeing as the trip was postponed and not cancelled.”

Cohen agreed that the reimbursement offer isn’t ideal for students who can’t go on the trip at a later time.

“Is it perfect that somebody put money out and now they’re not going to get that money back in their bank account between now and a reasonable time? No, it’s unfortunate,” the EMSB spokesperson said.

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Cohen added that the school board is working with the tour company to see if anything else can be done.

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