The Sag Harbor Board of Education last week approved a student trip to Cuba, set to take place in February 2016.
The trip will be open to students at Pierson High School who study Spanish, as well as to some students taking certain art courses.
The approval for the excursion came after students and teachers enthusiastically presented photos from a trip to Spain, which took place over spring break this year. Peter Solow, an art teacher at Pierson who also served as a chaperone on the Spain trip, said that after the travelers returned, the district received information about a trip to Cuba that is facilitated by the same organization that the school has used for other trips.
“Shortly after we returned from Spain, we received information … that they were offering the possibility of a trip to Cuba,” Mr. Solow told the School Board at a meeting last week. “We thought that this was sort of an extraordinary opportunity.”
The organization, WorldStrides, has been offering educational overseas trips to schools for nearly 50 years. It has offered the Cuba experience for the last 15 years. According to WorldStrides’s website, the nine-day tour includes stops in Havana, Santa Clara and Trinidad.
Travel from the United States to Cuba has been an issue for decades, ever since the U.S. imposed an embargo on the smaller nation back in 1960. In more recent years, though, some presidential administrations made efforts to lift the ban, at least allowing licensed travel groups to organize religious and educational tours there. Just this week, the U.S. Treasury and Commerce Department approved ferry service to Cuba for some companies based in Florida.
Last week, some board members posed the question of safety, as well as having a good handle on what accommodations will be like. Mr. Solow, however, assured them that WorldStrides has provided a list of potential hotels students can stay at, noting that many of them looked nicer than the hotels in Spain. He also pointed out that the Ross School has taken students to Cuba for educational trips on several occasions.
“There are concerns about security wherever we go,” Mr. Solow said. “It is slightly different than other trips we have taken, because of the situation.”
Aside from the small safety concerns, board members were enthusiastic about the prospect. “I think it’s a great thing,” Board Member David Diskin said. “I think it’s the kind of thing where you see a work of art … you can’t believe it until you see it.”
“You’re going to be able to see the true Cuba,” Vice President Chris Tice added.
After the board officially approved the trip, member Sandi Kruel offered a quick adieu to Mr. Solow. “Good luck. Have fun,” she said with a smile.