HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii students eager to compete in a national media convention flew to Washington D.C. this week only to be met with a sudden cancellation.
About 15 Hawaii schools flew up for the 2020 Student Television Network (STN) convention being held this year in the nation’s Capitol. The opening ceremony was set for Thursday.
Some schools brought just a handful of students, others brought upwards of 25 or more.
Each year, Hawaii schools make up a sizable chunk of participants at STN. Students not only attend workshops, they’re also put on the spot in on-site media and journalism competitions. Hawaii has a respectable reputation when it comes to the awards ceremony.
But Wednesday morning as teachers went to check in their teams, they were told the national event was suddenly cancelled amid coronavirus concerns.
STN made the announcement on their website, saying, “Due to the DC Heath Department’s recommendation that non-essential mass gatherings of 1,000 or more, including conferences and conventions, be postponed or cancelled, the board of directors has made the decision to cancel the 2020 STN Convention and related contests and activities."
Conference organizers added, “We are heartbroken.”
Also heartbroken were the Hawaii teachers and students who worked hard to refine their skills for the competition. Not to to mention — the efforts put into fundraising.
“All the schools right now are just scrambling, trying to find out when they can get home. And we’re all probably going to have to deal with possible fees or different fare rates,” Kevin Matsunaga, the Digital Media instructor of Kauai’s Chiefess Kamakahele Middle School, said.
Matsunaga organized a trip for 22 students and six chaperones.
“It’s a tough loss to take, but I don’t know if there’s any way around it. I don’t know that we can stay here and compromise the health of our students just because it’s going to be a hardship for money," he said.
"I think we gotta do just what’s best for the kids and if that means coming home and having to pay some extras, then that’s what we gotta do,” he added.
Jennifer Suzuki of Maui Waena Intermediate School brought 25 students with her.
“Such a disappointment for the kids," Suzuki said. "The kids are feeling guilty because their parents paid $2,500 to get them here. We’ve been practicing all year. Plus we’re tired. We just got here so there’s a lot going on.”
This comes the same day as the Hawaii Department of Education announced new travel restrictions.
In a memo, the DOE said all school and Department-related travel to the U.S. mainland and international destinations was canceled until the end of the 2019-2020 school year. The restriction goes into affect March 12.
Teachers say the students in D.C. are understandably disappointed. They are however making the best of their experience, squeezing in some time for sightseeing.
“I was looking forward to having the opportunity that most people don’t really have,” said Aleizay Angel, Maui Waena Intermediate School 6th grader.
Another teacher in D.C. says the Hawaii delegation is working to organize their own similar form of competition while still there.