Disappointed students and some angry parents could not convince the regional high school committee this week to lift its ban on air travel for school trips.
By a 6-1 vote, the school committee backed the recommendation of high school principal Peg Regan, who urged the board to cancel all air travel for the remainder of the school year except for trips to and from Nantucket.
"There are still terrorist acts being committed on airplanes," she said. "It's not in the school's purview in this climate to sponsor students or sanction these kinds of trips."
More than a dozen students and parents turned out for Monday's meeting and criticized the school committee members for succumbing to the fear of flight that has gripped the nation in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"The President said we shouldn't let the terrorists win," said Paul Brewer, a parent from Edgartown. "That's what we're doing."
In October, the school board voted unanimously to ground students through February and promised to revisit the issue on a monthly basis. Supported by school principals in the lower grades, that decision affected more than 100 students, including the eighth grade class in the West Tisbury School, which saw its annual exchange trip to England wiped off the calendar. Many students and parents have lost money to nonrefundable deposits.
But for students who signed up for trips slated for March and April, there was some hope that the school committee would soften its stance and allow them to board planes bound for France, Ireland, Italy, Spain and even Florida.
"I worked really hard to pay for my own self, and this is my senior year," said Brian Hall, who was hoping to travel to Homestead, Fla., with other students in the vocational high school building trades department to build houses for Habitat for Humanity.
Another student told the school committee that her trip to Germany had already been canceled, and she was hoping to go to Florida with the girls' softball team.
"I've been here four years, working my way up," she said. "I've been working hard to get the grades so I could go on a trip."
Only school committee member Roxanne Ackerman of Aquinnah supported allowing flight travel. "It's not right to back off the way we have. We haven't seen any evidence that we should not go," she said. "These trips are an important part of what we do at the high school."
Reacting to the criticism, Mrs. Regan described her decision as "heart-wrenching."
"The last thing I want to do is end students' opportunity," she said. "I feel badly about being in this position."
Most school board members stood behind Mrs. Regan, arguing that the federal government needs more time to beef up anti-terrorism measures. "There's been one thing after another," said committee member Anna Alley of West Tisbury. "We need to let security get into place. It's a bad time."
School committee members said they would allow other trips to go forward so long as students traveled by bus or train. That means that high school students planning a trip to Washington, D.C., to study government will be able to go, just not by airplane as originally planned.
At the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, school leaders handled the trip to Italy in a different way, allowing parents to decide whether to send their 13 and 14-year-old children abroad in April.
"As a democratic school, it was important that parents had a say in making the decision," said teacher Jonah Maidoff. "Half the group decided to go and half decided not to go." In all, 16 students and eight adults will make the trip to Italy, he said.
The compromise struck at the charter school was precisely what some parents at the regional high school demanded of the school committee. "We're willing to sign waivers," said Mr. Brewer.
But school committee members said they could be held liable if any students were hurt on a school-sponsored trip. "I'd have reservations about sending my own family," said Leslie Baynes, a board member from Edgartown.
"To carry the weight of allowing a lot of kids to go, I don't think we should carry that responsibility," said Gail Palacios, a committee member also from Edgartown.
Mrs. Regan said she recalled the advice of Nancy Orazem, a high school German and French teacher who has led many trips to Europe. "Under the best of circumstances, travel with students is risky business," said the principal. "But under war conditions, it's impossible."