DARIEN — After the cancellation of the Chinese exchange program this year, Darien High School students will now have the chance to visit China as part of a field trip.

“The teachers of the course have been working with the students in discussing an option for travel,” Principal Ellen Dunn said at the Board of Education’s Oct. 23 meeting, during which the board unanimously approved the trip.

The 11-day chaperoned trip would take place April 10-20, with a $300 deposit expected from students by Dec. 1. Dunn said the plan is to visit several schools and several historic sites. Students would stay at a hotel.

“One of the weeks is the vacation week,” Dunn said. “We cut down the length of stay recognizing a three-week stay without that immersion didn’t really make sense.”

The three-week exchange program had been ongoing for 16 years with schools in both Qingdao and Shanghai in China. This year’s program would have involved an exchange of 12 Darien High students and students in Qingdao, but visa complications led to the Chinese students being unable to participate.

“We obviously could not ask our host school to accept us for three weeks when we had not been able to welcome them here,” Dunn said.

According to Interim Superintendent Elliott Landon, initially the problem involved the U.S. consulate granting visas for the Chinese students. Subsequent to that, the Chinese government required their group of students to file a new application.

Patrick Malone, director of communications for U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, said the Chinese students’ applications were rejected because they applied for tourist visas.

When the visas were originally denied, the students appealed the decision; however, the appeal was denied as well. Malone said Himes then offered to step in to expedite a reapplication for the correct type of visa, but by then Chinese students had decided against coming.

Darien High students canceled plans to go to China once the Chinese students decided to not reapply, but the planned field trip is intended to still provide students with an international experience.

“We have, in a sense I feel, a responsibility to the group who committed to the course to give them some experience that we can enrich the course with,” Dunn said.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.

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