Photo courtesy of https://www.rd.com.
Trip to The Keys? Canceled. Trip to Belize? Canceled. Trip to Washington D.C? Canceled. All three of these events for Benjamin’s Class of 2025 were nixed either last year or this year due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Many other exciting events for the entire School were canceled this year as well, including the sixth grade’s trip to St. Augustine, the seventh grade’s trip to The Keys, the middle school’s musical and dramatic performances, and several guest speakers.
However, as coronavirus vaccines are currently being distributed for adults, and soon to come for teenagers, new school events are being planned and scheduled. Things finally seem to be returning to normal, but the trips missed will not be rescheduled, a fact many eighth graders are lamenting.
“I feel kind of sad and disappointed because in eighth grade you are supposed to go on the big D.C. trip,” said eighth grader Sawyer LeFevre.
“I feel sad that I could not go to The Keys in seventh grade and D.C. in eighth grade with my peers,” said fellow eighth grader Sage Sorenson.
“I wish that the eighth grade could have gone to the Keys and D.C.,” said fellow eighth grader Madison Fullerton. “I would have gone to Belize [with the School] if there had not been a pandemic.”
However, in compensation for and in replacement of the missed trips, the current eighth graders will travel to Universal Studios Florida on May 14, which has many students very excited.
“The Universal trip is still going to be fun no matter what, plus we don’t have to do any assignments while we are there,” said LeFevre. “Some of my favorite rides at Universal are Revenge of the Mummy, Rip Ride Rockit, the Jurassic Park Water Ride, and The Hulk,” he said.
According to History Department Chair Mrs. Anne Franzen, who helped plan the trip, it will be an all-day affair.
“We start early in the morning, around 6:00,” said Franzen. “Students will get their groups and their chaperone and load the buses. We plan to arrive when the park opens at 10:00 a.m. The day will be spent on rides, eating great food, and then we wrap it up when the park closes at 6:00 p.m. We should be home by 9:00 p.m.”
While the time spent at Universal may not be as exciting as the D.C. trip, the teachers wanted to provide some fun to the eighth-grade class.
“We wanted to do something [for the eighth graders], and we’ve been looking into which theme parks were accepting school groups,” said Franzen. “We contacted Disney, Busch Gardens, Seaworld, even Legoland. We were really excited when Universal said they would start having schools as of May 1,” she said.
While the trip will only be for the day, the students are still looking forward to letting loose and being with their friends.
“I am excited to go because I’ll be able to have fun with my friends,” said Sorenson. “I have been to Universal before, [and] I enjoy how it’s like an escape from the real world, and it is like a simulation of your favorite books and movies.”
“I am excited to go,” said Fullerton. “ I enjoy all of the rides, especially the Rip Ride Rockit and The Hulk.”
“I am excited because the last time I went to Universal, I was too short for a lot of the rides,” said LeFevre. “Now I can ride all of them, and there will be new roller coasters I have never ridden before.”
Of course, COVID-19 is still a concern to both students and parents, so The Benjamin School will make safety its first priority at Universal.
“Student temperatures and a health screening will be done before students get on the bus,” said Franzen. “Then Universal will also be doing temperature [checks] when we get to the park. We are required to be six feet apart from others, wear masks, and wash our hands during the entire trip. Buses will also be socially distant by chaperone group, and each group will consist of a chaperone and only six students. Students who have any symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home or else they jeopardize the groups’ entry into the park,” she said.
Sorenson, who visited Universal in September, appreciates the precautions the theme park takes to keep its visitors safe.
“The most recent time I visited Universal, they had done a really nice job with making the park COVID-19 safe,” she said. “They made sure to sanitize guests before going on rides, space people out, and enforce mandatory mask wearing when at the park or walking around.”
While there will be no White House, National Mall, or D.C sweatshirts this year, eighth graders can celebrate the end of their middle school career with plenty of thrills, laughter, and fun with their friends at Universal Studios Florida!