Educators deciding if Nacogdoches kids can go to Japan

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Since 1996 Nacogdoches teens have been taking trips to Japan. So far about 180 eighth graders have had the cultural exchange, with Chris Nett being among 14 others wanting to leave in May.

"I'm ready," the McMichael Middle School student said with a big smile.

It's not Chris' decision. Coordinator Sharon Fenley has a say in the matter. She's keeping close tabs on what's going on in Japan.

"This will be my ninth year to go and I've stayed with multiple families and made friendships that are everlasting and I'm on facebook with some of them," said Henley.

If NISD's Japanese sister school was close to where disaster struck it would be a no brainer, keep the kids home, but the school is about a thousand miles away from the devastated area.

"It's right here on the southern tip of the most southern island," pointed Fenley to a map.

But the risks of a two hour layover in Tokyo can't be ignored.

"(We're concerned about) projections of the radioactive materials that gets into the food and water, you know, if it is actually affecting that southern area where we're going," said Fenley.

Fenley has already researched possible refunds for airline tickets. A commuter flight in Japan is fully refundable. The flight from the states to the Japan will probably be partially refundable or eligible for an exchange.

This isn't the first time the Japan exchange program has had to weigh the pro and cons of taking the trip. Swine flu and H1N1 have presented risks in the past, but the trips weren't canceled.

Fenley is staying in close contact with parents who have saved months for airline tickets.

"They, obviously, are concerned, but I felt good," expressed Fenley, who had a meeting last week with parents.

Parents are trusting her decision.

"My wife and I have discussed that," said Ed Pool, whose son is signed up to take the trip. "And we just thought we would wait for a final decision and then take it from there, but at this point, I think if they determined it's safe,we would probably go ahead and let him go."

A final decision will be made on April 22nd. In the meantime, Chris has a pretty good indicator that he just might be able to go.

"My mom has been making a lot of lists for what to pack and things," said the hopeful teen.

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