Looming shutdown jeopardizes Washington field trip

April 8, 2011 1:17:58 AM PDT
If the government shuts down, it will ruin a trip to Washington for some Marin County middle schoolers.

From the time they enter as sixth graders, students at Davidson Middle School hear about the eighth graders trip to Washington D.C.

"There are a couple of museums in Washington that we're going to go visit," eighth grader Josh Schussler said.

Schussler is one of 96 eighth graders making the trip. It consists of nine days of museums, monuments and parks at $2,200 per person. But if the shutdown happens this weekend, many will be out of luck and the odds of government doors closing look stronger than ever.

"There will be some things we won't be able to see, the Capitol Building. We won't be able to go into the Capitol," Davidson Middle School teacher Mike Runyeon said. "Some of the museums will be closed. The monuments are run by the park service, so there won't be docents or guides at the monuments, but we'll still be able to see them."

"That would be really disappointing for everyone. I mean, that's one of the things we're really looking forward to, in going to Washington," Schussler said.

Schussler understands the money issue behind the shut down, but he doesn't get the inability to find a solution. When one of his classmates didn't have enough to make the trip, he went into his own pocket to help her.

"Well, because she was my friend and I kind of felt bad that she couldn't go because she didn't have enough money, and the scholarship fund couldn't cover it," he said.

Runyeon found about that and he told the principal.

"Mr. Runyeon knew first. Josh doesn't go around talking about it, which I think is even more to his credit," school Principal Harriet MacLean said.

Schussler got nominated as student of the month. He told ABC7 He's pretty upbeat that congress will find a fix to their money problems.

"They don't have to shut down the government. I don't think it's necessary," he said.

Runyeon says the trip, even with the shut down, is a teachable moment. When working together is the goal, sometimes a little sacrifice can go a long way.

"I better be careful of how I say this, but eighth graders are more aware of the larger picture," he said.

Vallejo school nervous about Washington visit

Some students from Vallejo are also anxiously following the developments in Washington because the shutdown is threatening to alter their plans for an upcoming trip to D.C.

Their trip was planned since the start of the school year and for most of the students, this will be their first trip to Washington, which is why they'll be so disappointed if the tourist spots they are hoping to see won't be open.

At a rehearsal for Vallejo's St. Patrick St. Vincent High's production of Les Miserables includes members of the school's choir. In one week, they're heading to Washington D.C. for a singing competition. They were looking forward to seeing the sites that make D.C. famous, but now, their itinerary is in jeopardy. If the government shuts down, national parks would close.

"If there's nothing to look forward to, if there's no Smithsonian, no Lincoln Memorial, I don't know how else we would spend our time in Washington," choir member Yenni Tirona said.

As for national parks in the Bay Area, a government shutdown would mean the closure of Muir Woods, Fort Point and Alcatraz Island. But beyond national parks, a shutdown would have a direct effect on people's pocket books. Taxpayers for instance filing paper returns, will see a delay in getting their refunds. And federal employees, including members of the military, will either be paid retroactively or not at all.

For the students at St. Patrick St. Vincent High School, they're hoping there'll be a resolution by the time they leave for D.C. but either way, they say this has certainly been a lesson in civics.

"It just kind of shows you how it goes in Washington, that you know sometimes they don't agree, a lot of the times they don't agree," choir member Adam Konoski said. "It's just...we're living history right now."

The choir at St. Patrick St. Vincent High School raised $15,000 for their trip next week to Washington D.C. and they also put in $35,000 of their own money.

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