Tuesday, May 26, 2009

“Our field trip to the White House is on Thursday, May 21,” announced Lori May in her kindergarten class’s newsletter. “We will go rain or shine.”

But it was neither rain nor shine that shut the gates Thursday on the Stafford County, Va., school bus. The White House turned away 130 Conway Elementary School kindergarteners from their scheduled tour after traffic delayed the group. The White House had no time left for the children: It had to prepare President Obama’s reception of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Conway Elementary group was scheduled to arrive at 9:30 a.m., said Valerie Cottongim, a spokeswoman for Stafford County Public Schools. White House coordinators kept the arrival window open until 10:30. But students arrived shortly after that.

“I’m sure the White House has a very tight schedule,” she said, adding that teachers had planned ahead in case they couldn’t get in.

She also said the school and the White House are working to reschedule the event, but only 3 1/2 weeks remain in Conway’s school year.

Teachers used the circumstance to teach the children about life’s disappointments. They continued with their backup plan: filling out a worksheet about the number of steps at the Lincoln Memorial and discussing life cycles while watching baby ducks at the Reflecting Pool.

The school had been planning the trip for some time, but principal Roxie Cooper, who helped chaperone the trip, said she saw not one tear shed by the children. She said one kindergartener approached her Friday and said, “We sure had a good time yesterday, didn’t we?”

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