As COVID-19 wreaks havoc globally, school districts face a new challenge: negotiating and issuing mass refunds for canceled field trips. The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently issued an enforcement notice to airlines that, even during the pandemic, must offer cash refunds for canceled or rescheduled flights within or from the United States. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in Canada has promised students and families that reimbursement for funds they raised for school trips and other canceled events due to COVID-19 will come as well.

Although cash refunds have been required, issuing reimbursement to parents for canceled school trips is complicated, especially when the district functions as the middleman between parents and the airline, hotel, or travel agency. Parents who have paid large sums for school trips involving expensive airline tickets and overnight stays are also negatively affected by refund procedures, which delay funds that are much needed in homes during an economic crisis.

6 Tips on Negotiating Refunds for a Canceled School Field Trip

1. Contact travel companies more than once.

Contact airlines, hotels, and school travel agencies to request a refund for a canceled school trip. If the trip involved planned activities with a prepaid fee (e.g., museum admission), contact the organization to request a refund. Also, remember to remain persistent—if the travel company says no, call and ask again. For example, Air Canada has reminded travelers to be patient, noting that refunds could take 6-8 weeks to come through. 

2. Contact the payment processing company.

You can also pursue refunds by contacting the vendor that processed the original payment(s). Different payment processing companies have different terms and conditions. Some may be more flexible and willing to assist with a refund request than others.

3. Systematize the process internally.

Build efficient internal processes to help school staff stay organized and issue refunds with ease. Consider building a master list of post-dated transactions, such as any scheduled payments that are no longer required. Doing so will allow school staff to take proactive steps toward halting transactions and avoiding the need for future refunds.

4. File a complaint.

If travel restrictions cause your event cancellation, such as those imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the vendor refuses a refund, contact the transportation authority to file a complaint. Consider contacting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to file a complaint also. 

5. Keep parents up-to-date throughout the process.

School districts should keep parents and families well-informed while pursuing and issuing refunds for a canceled school trip. Send frequent updates through emails and notifications to offer families peace of mind and reduce the number of complaints and panicked phone calls. For example, consider sending status notifications when a refund is initiated, followed by another notification when the refund is successfully processed.

6. Use a parent engagement and fee management solution.

COVID-19 continues to bring up issues relating to how districts collect fees and seek refunds for school field trips. A solution designed for fee collection and parent-school communication can significantly improve school trip planning and simplify damage control in the event of a cancellation.

Simplifying School Field Trip Management with ActivityRight

When planning for the 2020-2021 school year, districts should consider investing in a solution like ActivityRight, which is designed to simplify fee collection and communications (especially in the event of school trip change or cancellations). 

ActivityRight, a centralized parent and family engagement solution, allows for optimal parent-school communication and fee management. Using ActivityRight enables school districts to:

  • Automatically generate approvals, parent notifications, and digital payments
  • Simplify processing, collecting, and reconciliation of fees
  • Eliminate error-prone manual fee management processes
  • Integrate with school accounting solutions for easy refunds
  • Reduce the risks associated with cash collection

 Schedule a demo for a firsthand look at how ActivityRight benefits schools.

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We regularly share guidance and insights on parent-school communication and fee management.