WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – A journey firm that assists college teams with organizing musical performances at Central Florida’s theme parks is accused of failing to refund college students’ funds after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the cancellation of their journeys, Information 6 has realized.
Musical Locations Inc., primarily based in Winter Backyard, arranges transportation, inns, eating, theme park tickets and actions for youth teams acting at Common Orlando and Walt Disney World, based on the corporate’s web site.
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When the theme parks quickly closed in March 2020 to mitigate the unfold of the virus, a number of college bands realized their scheduled journeys to Central Florida could be canceled.
Eleven months later, lots of of households throughout the southeastern U.S. are nonetheless ready for Musical Locations to subject refunds.
Because the journey firm faces a possible litigation, a neighborhood theme park operator introduced it is going to now not do enterprise with Musical Locations.
“I’ve acquired a complete city of mad mother and father. They’re hurting,” mentioned John Rea, an legal professional who represents an Alabama college district in a deliberate lawsuit in opposition to Musical Locations. “I’m attempting my finest to recoup the cash.”
Musical Locations owes Springville Excessive College in St. Clair County greater than $105,000 after the band’s scheduled journey to Walt Disney World in March was referred to as off as a result of virus, based on Rea.
“(Musical Locations) promised a refund inside a couple of weeks,” Rea mentioned. “However the line of communication merely stopped.”
Almost 100 college students and 70 chaperones had been planning to make the journey from the Alabama highschool when the pandemic introduced Central Florida’s tourism trade to a halt.
Hundreds of hospitality staff misplaced their jobs and quite a few tourism-related companies suffered as journey to Central Florida plummeted following the virus outbreak.
“My of us are affordable. We notice unhealthy issues have occurred to lots of people,” Rea mentioned. “We simply want communication.”
Musical Locations has been operated by Joseph “Jody” Cooper since 1995, state information present.
Cooper initially agreed to talk with Information 6 however then didn’t reply his cellphone on the time of the scheduled appointment.
After Cooper didn’t reply to a number of emails, voicemails and textual content messages, a Information 6 reporter visited an tackle for Musical Locations listed on state information.
Cooper walked inside the house with out commenting about his firm.
“Mother and father are annoyed like I’m,” mentioned Jeremy McFall, the band director at Dora Excessive College in Dora, Alabama. “For lots of our college students, they simply don’t have the monetary capability to do a complete lot of touring.”
Though Musical Locations returned a $21,000 test it had not but deposited, McFall mentioned the corporate nonetheless owes his college $22,000.
“I used to be promised a refund settlement kind to get the method began, and I by no means acquired that,” mentioned the band director.
Primarily based on emails he acquired from Cooper, McFall believes Musical Locations efficiently recouped almost all the college’s cash that the corporate had paid out to third-party distributors like inns and eating places.
“I acquired some Common refunds at the moment on my bank cards,” Cooper reportedly wrote in a Might 6, 2020 electronic mail message that McFall supplied to Information 6.
However Common Orlando didn’t accumulate any cash from the journey firm on behalf of McFall’s college students previous to the band journey’s cancellation, based on a resort consultant.
“Our coverage and apply has been to shortly refund any scholar group with an occasion impacted by the pandemic,” a Common Orlando spokesperson mentioned. “That mentioned, we by no means acquired fee from Musical Locations on behalf of (Dora Excessive College) and we’re now not doing enterprise with this firm.”
“Oh my God. Wow,” McFall mentioned in response to the theme park operator’s assertion. “The place did the cash go? I imply, straight up, that’s the one query I’ve.”
Common Orlando introduced on March 12, 2020 that it could quickly shut its theme parks beginning March 16, 2020, three days earlier than Dora Excessive College’s scheduled journey to Central Florida.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency on March 13, 2020 as a result of coronavirus pandemic and closed public colleges for greater than two weeks.
On that very same day, McFall mentioned his college’s band journey was formally canceled.
In keeping with Dora Excessive College’s contract with Musical Locations, “if the group cancels” three months previous to the journey, all monies are refundable.
The settlement states that no refunds could be issued if the complete group tour was canceled lower than one month previous to the journey.
The contract doesn’t particularly tackle cancellations prompted by the closure of theme parks or inns.
The varsity group’s bundle included journey insurance coverage for “submit departure scholar safety,” based on the contract, however it’s not clear whether or not the insurance coverage coverage coated journey cancellation bills.
“My understanding, from Musical Locations, is that we might be getting our a refund for every part,” mentioned McFall, who claims the corporate by no means asserted that the funds have been non-refundable following the pandemic-related cancellation.
Harlem Center College, a Title I college in Georgia the place greater than 40% of scholars obtain free or lowered meals, is awaiting greater than $34,000 in refunds from Musical Locations following a canceled journey to Central Florida, based on the Columbia County College District.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Workplace just lately acquired a criticism about Musical Locations associated to its association with Harlem Center College, based on legislation enforcement officers, however the company has not but launched a proper legal investigation.
No less than two Alabama colleges efficiently obtained refunds from Musical Locations, Information 6 has realized, together with one the place Cooper’s brother works as band director.
Homewood Excessive College’s marching band had been planning to journey to the Event of Roses Parade in California earlier than the pandemic pressured the cancellation of the New 12 months’s Day occasion.
Musical Locations issued a partial refund to the college since among the deposits have been non-refundable.
“Homewood Excessive College went by the suitable technique of requesting a refund from Musical Locations,” a college district spokesperson mentioned. “Homewood Excessive’s settlement to make use of Musical Locations for journey preparations for the Event of Roses parade was made previous to the rent of (the college’s) present band director.”
Cooper’s brother didn’t reply to emails providing a possibility to remark.
In close by Shelby County, Musical Locations issued a refund to at least one college however households at two different colleges, Chelsea Excessive and Chelsea Center, are nonetheless ready to get a refund.
“It’s excessive frustration,” mentioned Barry Lovette, a guardian whose two daughters have been planning to bop alongside the Chelsea Excessive College marching band at Common Orlando whereas his spouse served as a chaperone.
Lovette advised Information 6 his household paid about $2,500 for the journey, which had been scheduled for the week of April 1, 2020.
Lovette mentioned he and different mother and father have repeatedly tried to contact Musical Locations with out success.
“I’m attempting to enlist assist to get this cash, not only for our household, however for all of the households,” Lovette mentioned. “And never only for our Chelsea Excessive College, however for all the colleges impacted by this case.”
Common Orlando by no means acquired fee from Musical Locations on behalf of Chelsea Excessive College, based on a Common spokesperson.
Information 6 requested a replica of Chelsea Excessive College’s contract with Musical Locations below Alabama’s public information legislation, however directors with the Shelby County Board of Training refused to supply it.
“In an effort to resolve the state of affairs, our attorneys would love us to maintain issues confidential between the College Board and Musical Locations at this time limit,” mentioned John Gwin, the college board’s chief monetary officer.
In a Dec. 16, 2020 letter addressed to folks, Gwin indicated that the college board had not been in touch with Musical Locations since September 2020, regardless of leaving voicemails and emails with the corporate each day.
The Shelby County Board of Training decided it was not possible to file a lawsuit in opposition to Musical Locations, based on the letter.
“Mother and father are irate and it’s hurting the college,” mentioned Kattie Curiel, who paid $565 for her daughter to journey to Orlando with the Chelsea Center College band. “I don’t know the way the proprietor (of Musical Locations) sleeps at night time.”
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