Unless world conditions worsen, the Evans High School band willmarch in the London Parade.
But the Columbia County Board of Education won't be putting its stamp of approval on the trip. The board voted Tuesday night to prepare a waiver for participating parents to sign, releasing the board from responsibility.
Because of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the continuing war on terrorism, some board members had expressed concern about students traveling abroad.
''This is not a required trip, or a necessary trip," School Superintendent Tommy Price told the board. ''You've got Americans traveling abroad and participating in high-profile events. There's no question there's got to be some concern. I don't think I can stand here and say it's responsible for you to sanction this trip. If parents want their children to go with world events as they are, then that's their decision. ... You don't want anything to happen, but if something did happen you don't want parents to come back and say, 'Why did you let them go?"'
After the issue was raised at the last meeting, band parents were surveyed to see whether they were still interested in the trip.
''The overwhelming majority said to just go with it," said Evans High band director Richard Brasco, who met with parents Monday and Oct. 18. Of the 107 who participated in the survey, 94 said they would be willing to let their children go, said Paul Farrow, Evans High School Band Booster president.
Farrow said the board's decision to have parents sign a waiver was ''workable."
''We just did not want the board to make that decision for us to go or not go. We're very pleased they left it up to the parents to make that decision."
The band will march in the London Parade on New Year's Day, leaving Augusta on Dec. 26 and returning Jan. 2. Two hundred thirty-two people are scheduled to fly to London, including 160 students. The trip costs $1,785 per person, and most have already paid the $700 deposit. This will be the third time the band has marched in this parade.
If the U.S. State Department issues an official warning against traveling to London at the time of the parade, then the band could get out of its contract.
Otherwise, band members who signed up to go are obligated to pay the cost of the trip, whether they go or not.
Board Trustee Mildred Blackburn and Robert O'Brien, head of security at St. Joseph Hospital, will travel to London on Friday to meet with parade and London officials and hotel and airline security personnel.
''We will be meeting with everybody that has anything to do with the parade and will even be walking the parade route," Blackburn said.
Brasco said he wanted people outside of the band and school to go to London to review security so they could provide an objective opinion.
The parade is an international event that gives the students exposure to bands from other countries, Brasco said. Last year, about 18 bands from the United States participated.
''It's kind of neat going over there," he said. ''They really appreciate the American bands, and it's interesting to see the bands from other countries. They have the local drum and bugle corps that have little kids that look like they're in second grade, all the way to old people who look like me."
He said the London parade, which stretches 2 1/2 miles through the city of Westminster, is much like Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Last year, about 12,000 people participated in the London parade, with more than 1 million spectators lining the streets.
''You've got Americans traveling abroad and participating in high-profile events. ... I don't think I can stand here and say it's responsible for you to sanction this trip."
Superintendent Tommy Price, to the Columbia County Board of Education
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