The director of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School has called off a long-planned trip by a group of students and teachers to attend a United Nations summit on climate change (COP21) scheduled in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.
A group of nine juniors and seniors, with social studies teacher Jonah Maidoff and science teacher Louis Hall, researched the issues, planned, and raised money for months. The school’s director, Robert Moore, said that safety concerns in Paris so close to the students’ Dec. 3 departure date left him with no choice but to call it off.
“To say no to this trip was not easy for me, but the safety and security of the students was, and is, paramount,” Mr. Moore told The Times in a telephone call Monday.
After hearing about the series of attacks in Paris that left at least 129 people dead on Friday, Mr. Moore took the weekend to weigh the school’s options for the upcoming trip. “We were going in two and half weeks, so it’s not like I had a lot of time to make the decision,” he said.
“Our students were really excited about it,” Mr. Moore said. “All of us as teenagers wanted to go to Paris, and now I’m telling you as teenagers that you can’t go to Paris.” The students took the decision well, he said, and understood the weight of circumstances far outside their control. “One student said, ‘Bob, the decision was really made by the world, it wasn’t made by you.’”
The students had planned to attend a rally outside the climate conference and include a sampling of French historical sites, culture, and cuisine during the 10-day trip.
In the wake of the attacks, the French government said no planned demonstrations, rallies or concerts tied to the conference would be allowed.
The Paris trip is part of the school’s Exposures program, which takes students on various off-Island trips to gain experience and explore various issues. Last September, a group of students attended the People’s Climate March in New York City.
The march, intended to put pressure on political leaders, attracted an estimated 300,000 people in support of solutions to climate change, and inspired student Hannah Gonsalves to look ahead to Paris. “As soon as I found out there was another [rally], I wanted to go,” she said about the climate gathering in Paris.
She told her science teacher, Louis Hall, who told her that it would be possible with hard work. Their preparations included a fundraising dinner at the Beach Plum Inn as well as a meeting with high-profile climate researchers at the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC).
Several researchers from the WHRC are traveling to Paris as delegates or observers in the talks, the 21st in a series of yearly sessions referred to as the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The meetings, where nations come together to negotiate responses to climate change, originated at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, with COPs this decade in Peru, Poland, Qatar, South Africa, and Mexico.
According to Mr. Moore, WHRC scientist Susan Natali, an Arctic permafrost researcher and charter school parent, is among the experts planning to attend the conference. She will be accompanied by her son Clancy, the only student still traveling to Paris.