In the weeks following the November 13 Paris terrorist attacks, which have since engendered growing concern over terrorism threat in America and Europe, especially in large metropolises, Mt. Greylock students participated in two field trips to New York City. On November 24, the seventh grade visited The Museum of Natural History, as part of a history and science unit focused on human evolution and geology; on December 4, a group of high school Spanish students (who voluntarily signed up for the trip) traveled to various areas of New York City in an exploration of Spanish culture in the city.
Though the seventh grade trip to the Museum of Natural History was scheduled for just days after ISIS released a video threatening a terrorist attack in Times Square, involved teachers and administrators decided to go ahead with the trip as planned. Principal Mary MacDonald described the decision process: “The superintendent and I conferred; we looked at travel information from New York City; we saw that the [terror alert level] is at the same level it has been at since 9/11, no higher, and knowing that the trip was going to the Natural History Museum, not to a more densely populated area, it made sense to let it happen.” However, there were still several students whose families chose not to have them participate in the field trip. “Multiple parents contacted the school, and said they were not comfortable with having their children go,” said MacDonald. On the other hand, MacDonald also said she received calls from parents asking, “you aren’t cancelling the trip, are you? Because isn’t that exactly what the terrorists want?” The administration did contact the Natural Museum of History to find out what kind of safety measures they had in place and even developed its own safety plan for the trip. “We had always had plans for communication [on field trips], but this was a nice opportunity to make a very definitive step-by-step process for what might happen,” MacDonald said. Some seventh graders had experienced misgivings before the trip, but upon arrival at the museum, were relieved by the comfortable and safe atmosphere. Ty Lepicier said, “At first I didn’t really want to go, but once we got there, it was fine, you wouldn’t think there was any danger.”
Though the seventh grade trip ran as planned without issue, the school administration and Spanish teachers Shannon Vigeant, Maria Cristina Fernandez, and Amy Kirby decided to make several changes to the high school Spanish trip’s itinerary for safety measures. In previous years, the trip had released students at Rockefeller Center to explore the city on their own at the end of the day. This year, administrators and teachers agreed it would be unwise to let students free in such a crowded area as Rockefeller Center and Times Square, with terrorist threat so high during the holiday season. Instead, the students went to a Dominican restaurant in Washington Heights for their dinner, after a salsa dance class and a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ms. Fernandez, who helped plan the trip but did not actually go on it, said, “it’s OK if I go [to Rockefeller Center] by myself, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be responsible for someone else’s kids.” Macdonald described this year’s trip as “a more structured trip, but one that adds another component of Latino culture.” Some students were pleased by the addition of another Spanish-related activity, but many others were frustrated by the school’s changes to the trip. Junior Carly Munzer said “none of us were thrilled, especially since we had to pay extra [for dinner at the Dominican restaurant], and I’m sure we all wanted to shop around and enjoy the city on our own.” Munzer also felt altering the trip itinerary to avoid danger was not the right way to counter terrorism. “I didn’t think [the changes] were necessary at all, because you can’t spend your life in fear; I mean they’ve been threatening us forever.”
There are no Mt. Greylock field trips scheduled to travel to major metropolises in the near future, but the school will have to make decisions regarding possible trips depending on the level of terrorism threat when the time comes. MacDonald also discussed the the feasibility of trips to Europe (the Latin department often runs a trip to Italy during February break). “Right now I would have grave concerns about sending a trip to Europe,” she said, “it may be a completely different story in six months or a year, but right now I would be very concerned.”