CABELL COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – The Cabell County Board of Education is suing a travel company it claims did not reimburse students for trips canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cabell County Schools says the lawsuit was filed in Cabell County Circuit Court against Eric A. Morrison and E.T. Advisor Services, LLC. The lawsuit alleges that during the 2019-2020 school year, the company collected a total of $136,500 from families at Milton Middle School and Barboursville Middle School for trips the schools had planned to Washington, D.C. The travel company is based in Ona, West Virginia.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those planned trips had to be canceled. The Cabell County BOE alleges the defendants did not return those funds after the trips were called off.

BOE officials say they were able to return some funds that had not yet been sent to the travel company and were still in Cabell County Schools’ possession at the time the trips were canceled.

“The travel company has refused to return the funds our students and parents worked so incredibly hard to raise,” says Rhonda Smalley, Cabell County BOE president. “When it became obvious that the trips were not going to occur, our schools withheld a fifth installment payment families had made and were able to return those funds.”

According to Cabell County Schools Superintendent Dr. Ryan Saxe, the travel company allegedly owes refunds to approximately 150 families between Milton Middle School and Barboursville Middle School.

“We recognize the burden our families have had to bear because this contractor has refused to reimburse them,” Saxe said. “Our main goal in filing the lawsuit is to assist these families now by helping them get their money back. We are compelled to help right this wrong placed upon our children and their families.”

According to Smalley, the school district has researched if it was possible for the BOE to issue direct payments to families while they worked to get reimbursements from E.T. Advisor Services, however, they say they learned they would not be in a legal position to do this.

“The school district has been working diligently for nearly two years to find a way to ensure the travel company makes our families whole,” Smalley said. “It is disappointing we have come to this point, but we have exhausted all other avenues.”

The BOE says they are being represented by Attorney Thomas P. Boggs of Duffied, Lovejoy and Boggs, PLLC, in Huntington, and that Boggs will host an informal meeting for families impacted by the canceled trips at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022 at Cabell Midland High School.