Canceled school trip leaves Columbia County parents out hundreds, some thousands, of dollars

Published: Feb. 28, 2021 at 12:38 AM EST
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HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Some Columbia County parents are out of hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. It all comes after the pandemic canceled what was supposed to be a magical trip to Disney World.

“I was excited to see her sing at Disney; that was a huge accomplishment. She loves chorus, loves everything about it,” said Harlem Middle School parent Lindsay Metternich.

But after the trip was canceled, the Columbia County school district says money sent to the travel agency Musical Destinations was never refunded. All this despite that the district tells us they believe the hotel and Disney World sent partial refunds back to the agent.

“For some of these families, during COVID, families couldn’t even pay their mortgage. They couldn’t pay for groceries. $2,300, $2,400 for some families is a lot of money,” said Metternich.

The trip cost $725 per person, although Metternich says some parents paid for multiple children, or themselves to go as chaperones.

News 12 found they aren’t the only parents that could be going through this. Earlier in the month, a CBS affiliate out of Alabama reported a school district there was suing the same travel agency for the same reasons.

“We just wish the school board would kind of step up a little bit, like they did in Alabama,” said Michael Metternich.

Back in November, the principal of Harlem Middle School sent out an email to parents informing them that they should individually file with small claims court against Musical Destinations in order to recoup the money for the trip. But parents say doing that would cost them even more money.

“At that point, I think we all got a little frustrated,” said Michael Metternich.

Parents say they are frustrated because the district is not backing them against Musical Destinations. It’s a company they say they didn’t pick and never sent money directly to.

“We didn’t sign any contract with this [Musical Destinations] place. We didn’t write any checks to this [Musical Destinations] place. My check says Harlem Middle School, in the memo section it says -- it says ‘chorus,’” said Jessica Padgett, mother of a former Harlem Middle School student.

We reached out to Musical Destinations on Thursday and have not heard back from them as of the posting of this article.

Parents say they were refunded $125 last week for travel expenses through a charter company, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to everything they’ve paid.

Both parents and the district say they’ve made multiple attempts to reach Musical Destinations but have not been able to get their refunds.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office confirms it’s opened an investigation into the case and is assisting authorities in Florida, where Musical Destinations is located.

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