The Park Rapids School Board on Monday, Sept. 20 reviewed a school group’s trip to Washington, D.C. this past summer and authorized teachers to start planning a similar trip for summer 2023.

Century Middle School teachers Morgan Marcussen and Emily Schueller reported on their third student-parent trip to the nation’s capital this year with tour company World Classroom.

Marcussen said they took 36 students, 17 parents and four other chaperones on this year’s trip. “Our group has grown pretty dramatically,” she said. “We had a full bus. I think there was one seat that was open.”

Schueller noted that COVID-19 made it a different experience from previous trips, with some tour venues only open to groups of six. So, they were unable to visit the Holocaust Museum or the Smithsonian.

Instead, they spent a day traveling to the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, Pa., a long bus trip that the teachers described as a nice break after a day when they logged 28,000 steps.

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The Park Rapids tour group visits Mount Vernon, the historic home of first U.S. President George Washington in Virginia, during this summer's World Classroom trip to the Washington, D.C. area.
Contributed / Morgan Marcussen, Sept. 23, 2021
The Park Rapids tour group visits Mount Vernon, the historic home of first U.S. President George Washington in Virginia, during this summer's World Classroom trip to the Washington, D.C. area. Contributed / Morgan Marcussen, Sept. 23, 2021

“We were the only ones who knew it was any different,” Schueller said. “Everybody else that was on the trip, it was all new to them.”

The school group also saw the changing of the guard and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. They also witnessed the first African-American female honor guard going on duty at the memorial for the first time.

“Our guide was just like, ‘We’re seeing history!’” Schueller said. “It was pretty neat that we got to see that.”

Park Rapids students were invited to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during their visit to Arlington National Cemetery this summer.
Contributed / Morgan Marcussen, Sept. 23, 2021
Park Rapids students were invited to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during their visit to Arlington National Cemetery this summer. Contributed / Morgan Marcussen, Sept. 23, 2021

They said they hope World Classroom will take their experienced input into account when planning the school’s fourth trip, adding that they hope to be able to get into the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian next time, and they prefer the air and space museum location in Virginia (the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center) to the one on the National Mall.

Marcussen and Schueller said they plan to meet soon with current sixth and seventh graders and their parents to discuss the trip and gauge their interest in visiting particular sites, such as Gettysburg.

School board member Stephanie Carlson was impressed that the teachers want to continue to lead the tour after going three times. Marcussen said every trip has been a little different, and Schueller added that World Classroom has done a good job keeping the tour moving.

“I’m amazed how many parents go along,” said Marcussen. “We had our first repeat parent this time, too.”

Board member Dennis Dodge moved to authorize them to move forward, and the motion passed unanimously.

The Park Rapids tour group visits the Lincoln Memorial during their tour of Washington, D.C. this past summer.
Contributed / Morgan Marcussen, Sept. 23, 2021
The Park Rapids tour group visits the Lincoln Memorial during their tour of Washington, D.C. this past summer. Contributed / Morgan Marcussen, Sept. 23, 2021