Group of Bishop Seabury students cutting trip to Greece short amid COVID-19 developments

photo by: Chad Lawhorn

The campus of Bishop Seabury Academy in Lawrence, 4120 Clinton Parkway, is pictured in July 2019.

A group of Bishop Seabury Academy students spending their spring break in Greece are cutting their trip short to head back home amid federal travel restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus.

About 30 students from Bishop Seabury on Thursday were in Athens as part of an educational spring break trip to the country. They were originally planning to return on Tuesday.

But President Donald Trump’s order to restrict travel between the U.S. and Europe Wednesday night led to the group changing plans, said Don M. Schawang, Bishop Seabury’s head of school, who is with the students.

“I am in Greece with kids, and it is a little hectic,” said Schawang, who briefly spoke with the Journal-World Thursday morning.

The travel restrictions were set to go into effect late Friday, barring travel to most European countries for 30 days. However, travel to the United Kingdom would still be permitted. After Trump’s address announcing the restrictions, Homeland Security officials later clarified that they don’t apply to legal permanent residents, immediate family of U.S. citizens or others “identified in the proclamation,” according to The Associated Press.

Schawang said the Bishop Seabury group decided Wednesday night — which was about 3 a.m. Thursday in Greece — to head back to the U.S. early as a precaution. The group expects to be in London by Friday and back in the U.S. “in the next day or so,” he said.

Outside of the travel issues, Schawang said the trip had been enjoyable for the students.

“It has been a very good trip,” he said.

While the Bishop Seabury students were in Greece for an educational trip, the country shut down its own education system on Wednesday, according to a Reuters report. The country closed schools, universities, day care centers and other educational establishments for two-weeks.

According to a World Health Organization report released on Thursday, Greece has 98 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with one resulting in death. Other European countries are in much more dire situations, such as Italy, which has reported more than 12,000 cases and more than 800 deaths, according to the report.

The Lawrence school district, which is also currently closed for spring break, does not have any similar situations of students traveling internationally, Julie Boyle, a spokeswoman for the school district, told the Journal-World last week.

The Eudora school district on Thursday postponed its upcoming trips, including one that was set to travel to Australia over Eudora’s spring break next week, said Mark Dodge, a spokesman for the school district.

“EF Tours, our travel company, has made the decision to postpone all Spring Break tours, including the EHS trip to Australia,” Dodge said in an email to the Journal-World Thursday. “Students have been notified. Details of the rescheduled trip will be provided to families when they become available.”

Additionally, Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson told school leaders across the state on Thursday they should advise students returning from recent international travel to see their local health department. He said they may have students take precautions to minimize spread of the virus.

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