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Locals left empty-handed as space camp company goes under

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 01:45 pm

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Local students and parents may be out some $228,000 this week now that the company behind a proposed trip to space camp has apparently crashed and burned.

Muriel Martin, Ronald Harvey, Leo Nickerson and Keenooshayo school students and parents learned late last week that the company behind an upcoming space camp tour had apparently gone out of business, taking their money with it.

The four schools had planned to send about 91 parents and students to the Cosmodome space camp in Laval, Que., later this spring as part of a tour of Ontario and Quebec, said St. Albert Public Schools superintendent Barry Wowk.

District schools had arranged the tour through Experiential Education and Tours Ltd. – a company based in Truro, N.S. This year’s trip was scheduled for April 26 to May 3.

School principals started calling the company earlier this month when their trip itinerary didn’t show up, but got no replies to their messages. The company’s phone line was disconnected as of Friday.

Further research revealed that the company had apparently closed, Wowk said. It’s unclear if the company has declared bankruptcy or simply gone under.

That means the trip is cancelled and that the parents are collectively out some $227,500, Wowk said – the trip cost $2,500 a head, with each parent paying the company directly.

Wowk said he’s shocked and surprised by this turn of events, as the company had run successful trips for the district many times in the last 10 years. “We had no signs that there were any financial issues.”

Affected parents got a call and a letter from school principals with the news last week.

Sandrine Pollock said she and her daughter Stephanie signed up for the trip last May, and are shocked and frustrated by its cancellation.

“She’s pretty upset,” Pollock said of Stephanie, who had been saving up her money for the trip. “It was a weekend packed full of a bunch of adventure for these kids.”

Wowk said he’s saddened that the students won’t get to go on this trip. It will be up to the affected schools to decide if they want to plan a different one, but the odds of pulling off a complex trip like this one in just five weeks are pretty slim.

“Right now, my goal is to simply see what we can do to help the parents get as much of their money back” as possible, he said. The board was investigating its legal options and checking if its insurance would cover any losses.

The Gazette was unable to reach anyone with Experiential Education or its president, Gail Goodwin. The company’s website and Facebook page were both down as of Tuesday, with the Facebook site last being updated on March 11.

A spokesperson with the federal Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada said he had no record of the company declaring bankruptcy as of Tuesday.

This is a tough situation for these parents, said Ron Mycholuk of the Edmonton Better Business Bureau.

“When a business goes under, unfortunately, what we’ve learned in our experience is that the consumers and the employees end up getting shafted more than anyone else,” he said. Any money the company usually has left goes to paying bills before it goes to refunds. You can sue, but if the company doesn’t have any money, you won’t get any.

Mycholuk advised the parents to get their credit card companies to try and cancel any payments they made to this company. They should also check with the Superintendent of Bankruptcy later this month to see if the company has declared bankruptcy and appointed a trustee to oversee its finances.

Some parents have managed to cancel cheques and payments to get their money back, Wowk said.

Wowk said he would meet with the affected families later this week to discuss next steps.


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