The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted academic and extracurricular programs across PPS for the remainder of the school year. Daily classes, athletics, the arts, graduation, and prom are all facing modifications, postponements, or complete cancellations. Amidst the sadness of losing upcoming school events, several students in the language programs are left wondering if they will still be able to go on their heavily anticipated international trips. Franklin High School offers five different languages to study: Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and Russian. As a supplement to the curriculum, several language teachers have opted to take small groups of students on language enrichment trips. This kind of trip challenges students to practice the language intensively while also learning about the culture firsthand. Hannah Ragsdale, who graduated from Franklin in 2019, remembers her trip to Germany with Mr. Grobey fondly. She comments that she is thankful that her first trip to Europe was with her class, saying, “it was comfortable having [Mr. Grobey] be in charge because I already had him for two years as a teacher previously. I have really bad travel anxiety, but he helped me get through the trip with no troubles.”
Two Franklin trips have already been compromised by Coronavirus travel regulations. Dana Miller, who has taken her French students to Paris every other year since 2004, was unable to host her trip this Spring Break. The program usually offers students the opportunity to explore sights such as Versailles, The Louvre, and the Catacombes. Miller isn’t completely sure yet when she will be able to reschedule for, explaining, “We have been looking into other options, but as this virus is dismantling the world as we know it, we still don’t know. I am hopeful for a summer window, but we may have to wait until next year’s Spring Break. This is obviously problematic for the seniors, so we will hopefully find a solution.” Although the timeline for the Coronavirus pandemic is unclear, President Trump stated at a press conference in March that quarantine may last until August. Travel restriction would likely extend beyond that, cutting into the new school year. Students who cannot attend the new travel date on Ms. Miller’s tour will qualify for a transferable travel voucher for the amount of the trip. However, this is not ideal for seniors as they will have already graduated from high school by the time they are eligible to use their voucher.
The March trip to Khabarovsk, Russia was the other language program that did not happen due to travel restrictions. Franklin is the only PPS high school to offer Russian immersion. Students who continue the program from Lane Middle School are offered the opportunity to expand their skills by travelling abroad. The 2020 trip, which was going to be hosted by Ms. Struble, is still anticipated to be rescheduled. Isabella Taylor (12) says the group is looking for fall 2020 dates. She is hopeful that she will still be able to attend her rescheduled trip after graduation, stating, “I went on the same trip in the summer between my sophomore and junior year and it was a really great learning experience for me. I’ve been in Russian immersion since kindergarten and I’ve always been pretty involved with Russian culture in Portland, but it’s a whole different experience when you actually get to go to Russia and are surrounded by the language and culture 24/7. I think it really improved my language skills and kind of diminished that natural fear or embarrassment that comes with holding a conversation with a native speaker.”
The most important priority during the Coronavirus pandemic is keeping people safe by social distancing. However, students who hoped to supplement their learning by travelling with their peers are understandably saddened by the prospect of not being able to do so. How these trips will proceed is up in the air for teachers and families, as predictions for when the pandemic will peak range anywhere from later this month to 18 months from now. Although the Paris and Khabarovsk trips will most likely be rescheduled eventually, it is unclear if seniors will be able to participate. Until the answers are clear, the biggest concern on everyone’s mind is keeping the Franklin community safe during this very uncertain time.