Genoa High School students will be among the spectators in Washington, D.C. when President Barack Obama takes the oath of office for his second term.
Social Studies teacher James Dempster, who travels a lot himself and has visited the D.C. area on several occasions, said this is a historical moment the group is lucky to have the opportunity to take part in.
“I’ve never known anyone who has attended a presidential inauguration,” Dempster said in a telephone interview. “It’s a unique experience. Not many people can say they have seen a presidential inauguration upfront and personal. I thought it would be a neat experience for the kids.”
Dempster asked the Genoa Board of Education for permission for the trip to the nation’s capital more than a year ago, Superintendent Dennis Mock said. Planning has been in the works since.
The group, including Dempster, Government teacher Ron Liwo and 11 students, board a plane at Cleveland Airport bound for D.C. at 6 a.m. Jan. 19 and return in the afternoon Jan. 22.
Adding to the excitement, the office of Ohio’s 5th District Congressman Bob Latta recently informed Dempster the staff was able to arrange VIP seating for the whole crew at the National Mall.
“I think it’s a pretty big deal …That’s unheard of to get that many tickets,” Dempster said.
Obama’s first inauguration as the 44th president of the United States took place on Jan. 20, 2009, drawing nearly 1.8 million people. The event, which set a record attendance for any event held in Washington, D.C., was also the most-observed globally given television viewership and Internet traffic numbers. This month, the presidential inauguration takes place publicly on Monday, Jan. 21, the day after a private swearing-in ceremony.
By law, the president must take the oath by noon, Jan. 20. And since that day falls on a Sunday, the private ceremony has been scheduled.
According to the Associated Press, the second inauguration is expected to draw fewer spectators, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000.
The week of festivities include the inauguration, inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue as well as a night of inaugural balls and galas honoring President Obama.
The Genoa students will take part in an inaugural ball of their own with students from across the nation, Dempster said. The other trip highlights include visits to the Smithsonian museums, Arlington National Cemetery, Mount Vernon, the Capitol Building, the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court as well as a night tour of Washington D.C.
The trip itinerary is planned through Education First, a subsidiary of Smithsonian Student Travel.
Dempster opted to use the agency because of its track record.
The flight costs $1,500 each and room costs are just over $300 a day because of the inauguration. Some students had to drop out when air travel was chosen over busses.
“We just didn’t have the numbers to fill a bus,” Dempster said.
The local teens will actually be staying at a hotel near Annapolis, Md. “The idea is to keep the kids out the main fervor,” the teacher explained.
That is perhaps easier said than done though.
“It’s going to be a madhouse for sure,” Dempster said. “It’s not going to be short lines anywhere I can tell you that.”
The group will be paired with other school groups and chaperones and the Education First organization stations security teams at the hotels and with the bus trips throughout the city.
This is the first trip to Washington D.C. for most of the students, Dempster said.
Mock said district students used to take school-related trips to the nation’s capital but that hasn’t occurred in at least five years.
Dempster hopes the students on this trip, who range from freshmen to seniors, will help revive the tradition. Those trips tend to take place in the off-seasons when prices are substantially lower and more cost-effective for students.
“It’s just a great feeling to give them the opportunity to be exposed to Washington D.C. and expose them to history,” Dempster said.