After consulting with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Public Health, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) made a decision to cancel the Model United Nations (MUN) trip to the National High School MUN Conference in New York City because of concerns about COVID-19. In response, club members and some parents pulled together the chaperones and transportation needed to go on the trip independently.
Last Monday, Principal Sara Dingledy released a statement informing students that their trip was canceled “due to the significant risk of exposure to the COVID-19 and the international nature of this event.” This generated a mixed response from club members, some of whom chose to forfeit approximately $700 and not attend the trip, and others who chose to attend the conference without school approval. Students who did not attend the trip may be partially reimbursed by the high school.
MUN is a rigorous club in which students meet to research, discuss, and write about global and country-specific issues. Each year culminates in an annual conference where students meet with peers from around the globe to debate issues and craft resolutions.
Freshman Jake Glasgow felt he would be missing out on the experience and wasting the time he spent preparing for the conference, so he decided to attend the trip, along with 10 other club members. Nine others chose not to attend. “I chose to go because of what I had heard about how fun the trip was,” he said. “I also didn’t want 30 or more hours of work I had done to not be used.”
In her statement about the trip cancellation, Principal Sara Dingledy emphasized her focus on protecting the school environment. “There was a fear of the consequences of kids being exposed and returning here. The next few weeks are a time of heightened alertness. Exposure to [COVID-19] could prompt a response here — quarantines, perhaps school closure. I wanted to work to protect our instructional environment as much as possible, and try to reduce the possibility of it being disrupted.”
MUN co-president Chesca Potter chose to attend the conference after the school revoked approval of the trip. Chesca shared her reasoning for attending the trip, explaining, “I do see where [the school’s] coming from, but I’m also in a place where the conference itself is not letting students from countries where the coronavirus is really bad even come. If there was a higher risk, I would understand,” she said. The MUN conference organizers took precautions by barring students from attending if they were from countries severely impacted by the disease, including Italy and China.
MUN faculty advisor Cynthia West understands the threat that COVID-19 poses to the Island, and was not opposed to the school’s decision to cancel the trip. She said, “We live in a small community. We interact a lot more than other places, because we’re on an island. An infection here would really be disastrous because we are so close to each other. I wouldn’t have wanted to have been responsible for contributing to more people being exposed to the virus.”
Senior Chloe Hoff felt similarly that the educational value of the trip didn’t outweigh the potential health risks. She said, “Due to my mom working in a school, my family felt it was best not to risk bringing back COVID-19. But I am lucky enough to have had the experience of this event [the Model U.N. Conference] in the past.”
Although this year’s trip did not turn out as expected, Ms. West was optimistic about the future. She said, “I imagine we’ll have to figure out a way to be sensitive about sharing what did end up happening in New York, in a way that doesn’t make anybody feel wistful about not having gone.”
Following the cancellation of the Model U.N. trip, the ski club’s annual trip to two mountains in New Hampshire on March 7 and 8 was also canceled due to concerns about COVID-19.