St. Johns County School District postpones choir trip to Italy

The country is one of several identified by the CDC as having a higher risk of coronavirus transmission

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Concerns over the spread of coronavirus have led the St. Johns County School District to postpone a summer choir trip to Rome.

The St. Johns County Center for the Arts Chamber Singers (SJCCA), which is made up of St. Augustine High School students, were scheduled to perform at The Rome International Choral Festival in June.

But the group is pushing back its visit in response to a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is discouraging nonessential travel to several countries including Italy.

“I think a lot of the kids had been watching the news and were cued up on, ok – this, we’re probably not going to be able to go this year,” said Kassy Johnanessen, a parent of one of the choir members.

In a news release, SJCAA Director Jeff Dodd announced Superintendent Tim Forson is postponing the trip, citing concerns for the “health, safety and well-being of our students, staff and chaperones.”

As a result, the invitation to perform is being extended to June 2021, Dodd said.

In the letter to students, the choir director announced parents will receive a full refund of the money they paid so far for the trip. And seniors – who will graduate before next year – will also get the opportunity to come back and sing at the Vatican next summer.

“I think they are excited that they have more time to fundraise,” Johnanessen said. “And that they are letting the seniors come back is really big.”

The group is attempting to raise more than $208,000 to cover travel costs for each student.

The announcement comes a day after Italian officials imposed a nationwide lockdown in hopes of containing the spread of the virus as the country grapples with more than 9,000 cases of the virus.

The CDC has identified four countries – China, Iran, Italy, South Korea – as having a higher risk of transmission of coronavirus and asks that travelers self-quarantine for 14 days after their return.

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