The annual sister-city exchange trip with Marbach, Germany, has been canceled due to the COVID-19 or coronavirus outbreak.

A total of 15 Marbach students and two adult chaperones were scheduled to visit Washington from March 31 through April 14.

The students stay with host families who live in the area and participate in a variety of educational activities, including attending classes at both St. Francis Borgia Regional High School and Washington High School, visiting the Gary Lucy Gallery and touring Washington Firehouse.

Andrew Gross, St. Francis Borgia Regional High School faculty member who was overseeing the program, explained that the decision to cancel the trip was due to safety concerns with the current virus outbreak.

“St. Francis Borgia Regional High School administration, Washington High School administration, officials from the city of Washington and Health Department met last week,” he said. “It had been decided before the situation had progressed (the travel ban issued) that the trip would be postponed.”

Karen Straatmann, who also oversees the program, said this is only the second time in 30 years the trip has been canceled.

“The only other time was after 9/11,” she said.

Straatmann expressed the host families’ disappointment in the situation.

“These families have been preparing for these students and communicating with them via email,” she said. “They have been looking forward to meeting them.”

Straatmann explained that due to scheduling restraints, the trip will not be rescheduled for a later date.

Both Straatmann and Gross stated that the students’ next opportunity to participate in the program and visit Washington will be next year.

Trip in June

Borgia High students also have a trip planned to Europe this June through Education First (EF) Educational Tours.

A total of 26 students and 10 adult chaperones are scheduled to make the trip which includes stops in Rome, Barcelona and Berlin. Ten people are scheduled to stay an additional week and visit Marbach.

A decision on whether or not it will go on as planned is still unknown, said Gross, who is in contract with EF. A decision is not expected to be made until mid- to late April.

“It is our hope that we will still be able to attend the trip this summer,” he said.