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Band Trip Cancelled, Missouri High School Swindled Out of $360,000

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WILLARD, Mo. (AP) – A Missouri high school has canceled the school band’s costly summer trip to Hawaii after the company that organized the trip and had already collected about $360,000 stopped communicating with the school.

Willard High School band director Chris Church said student band members are “shocked and numb” by the cancellation. Church said plans for the trip began to fall apart earlier this year when Performing Hawaii Tours stopped returning phone calls and emails. Last week, students and families were told the trip was likely off.

“Our immediate concern is getting our money back,” Church said. “We’ve called the (Willard) police; the FBI is involved.”

He said the Office of the Missouri Attorney General also has been asking questions.

The 240-member band was planning to leave for the six-day trip in five weeks, at a cost of $1,850 per student. Band members already paid the organizing company about $360,000, The Springfield News Leader reported Tuesday. The entire trip was expected to cost about $500,000.

Church said the district stopped wiring regular payments to the company in January in an effort to get tour operator Calliope Ope Saaga to provide a long overdue progress report about the trip. Attempts to contact the company Tuesday were unsuccessful; a website that previously provided a link to the company was not functional.

Superintendent Kent Medlin said students, their parents and school staff have expressed interest in putting together a different band trip.

Church plans to meet with the 43 band seniors today to discuss options. Despite the disappointment, Church said the focus has been on finding a solution.

“Everybody is very trusting and this hits them in their core values,” he said. “A lot of people want closure with this, we want it resolved. We want to get the money back.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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