Winter Backyard garden, Fla. – A vacation business that assists college groups with arranging musical performances at Central Florida’s topic parks is accused of failing to refund students’ payments right after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the cancellation of their visits, Information 6 has acquired.
Musical Locations Inc., centered in Winter Yard, arranges transportation, hotels, dining, theme park tickets and pursuits for youth groups carrying out at Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World, according to the company’s web site.
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When the theme parks temporarily shut in March 2020 to mitigate the distribute of the virus, quite a few college bands uncovered their scheduled visits to Central Florida would be canceled.
Eleven months later, hundreds of people throughout the southeastern U.S. are continue to waiting around for Musical Locations to concern refunds.
As the travel corporation faces possible litigation, a regional theme park operator announced it will no extended do business with Musical Destinations.
“I’ve bought a total town of mad parents. They’re hurting,” mentioned John Rea, an attorney who signifies an Alabama faculty district in a planned lawsuit in opposition to Musical Locations. “I’m hoping my very best to recoup the dollars.”
Musical Destinations owes Springville Large School in St. Clair County extra than $105,000 right after the band’s scheduled journey to Walt Disney Environment in March was named off thanks to the virus, according to Rea.
“(Musical Locations) promised a refund within just a couple weeks,” Rea stated. “But the line of conversation merely stopped.”
Approximately 100 learners and 70 chaperones experienced been arranging to make the trip from the Alabama higher school when the pandemic introduced Central Florida’s tourism sector to a halt.
Hundreds of hospitality staff misplaced their jobs and many tourism-related firms suffered as journey to Central Florida plummeted subsequent the virus outbreak.
“My folks are realistic. We realize lousy points have took place to a ton of folks,” Rea stated. “We just have to have conversation.”
Musical Destinations has been operated by Joseph “Jody” Cooper since 1995, point out data present.
Cooper to begin with agreed to talk with Information 6 but then failed to response his cell phone at the time of the scheduled appointment.
Right after Cooper did not respond to several email messages, voicemails and textual content messages, a News 6 reporter visited an tackle for Musical Destinations stated on state information.
Cooper walked within the residence without commenting about his company.
“Parents are disappointed like I am,” stated Jeremy McFall, the band director at Dora High College in Dora, Alabama. “For a great deal of our learners, they just don’t have the fiscal skill to do a full great deal of touring.”
Despite the fact that Musical Destinations returned a $21,000 verify it had not however deposited, McFall mentioned the corporation however owes his college $22,000.
“I was promised a refund arrangement variety to get the procedure started, and I hardly ever been given that,” said the band director.
Centered on e-mails he received from Cooper, McFall believes Musical Places efficiently recouped practically all the school’s cash that the firm experienced paid out to third-party suppliers like resorts and eating places.
“I bought some Common refunds today on my credit history playing cards,” Cooper reportedly wrote in a May possibly 6, 2020 e mail concept that McFall provided to News 6.
But Universal Orlando did not collect any income from the journey company on behalf of McFall’s college students prior to the band trip’s cancellation, in accordance to a resort representative.
“Our coverage and exercise has been to quickly refund any university student group with an function impacted by the pandemic,” a Common Orlando spokesperson reported. “That reported, we hardly ever acquired payment from Musical Places on behalf of (Dora Large Faculty) and we are no lengthier executing company with this business.”
“Oh my God. Wow,” McFall reported in response to the topic park operator’s statement. “Where did the funds go? I imply, straight up, which is the only question I have.”
Universal Orlando declared on March 12, 2020 that it would briefly near its theme parks commencing March 16, 2020, a few times right before Dora Higher School’s scheduled vacation to Central Florida.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of crisis on March 13, 2020 owing to the coronavirus pandemic and closed public educational institutions for additional than two months.
On that identical day, McFall claimed his school’s band vacation was formally canceled.
In accordance to Dora Higher School’s contract with Musical Locations, “if the team cancels” a few months prior to the vacation, all monies are refundable.
The settlement states that no refunds would be issued if the total group tour was canceled considerably less than one particular month prior to the vacation.
The agreement does not particularly deal with cancellations prompted by the closure of topic parks or lodges.
The university group’s deal provided travel insurance plan for “post departure pupil safety,” according to the contract, but it is not crystal clear whether the insurance plan coverage lined journey cancellation fees.
“My comprehending, from Musical Locations, is that we would be obtaining our revenue again for every little thing,” mentioned McFall, who statements the firm never asserted that the payments ended up non-refundable next the pandemic-linked cancellation.
Harlem Middle School, a Title I faculty in Georgia in which more than 40% of students obtain cost-free or reduced meals, is awaiting extra than $34,000 in refunds from Musical Places pursuing a canceled vacation to Central Florida, according to the Columbia County Faculty District.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Workplace just lately gained a grievance about Musical Places related to its arrangement with Harlem Center School, according to regulation enforcement officials, but the agency has not nonetheless launched a formal prison investigation.
At least two Alabama colleges successfully acquired refunds from Musical Places, Information 6 has acquired, together with one particular in which Cooper’s brother works as band director.
Homewood Large School’s marching band experienced been scheduling to travel to the Tournament of Roses Parade in California just before the pandemic pressured the cancellation of the New Year’s Working day occasion.
Musical Places issued a partial refund to the faculty since some of the deposits had been non-refundable.
“Homewood Large College went through the ideal approach of requesting a refund from Musical Locations,” a university district spokesperson mentioned. “Homewood High’s settlement to use Musical Locations for journey preparations for the Event of Roses parade was created prior to the use of (the school’s) latest band director.”
Cooper’s brother did not respond to email messages featuring an option to comment.
In close by Shelby County, Musical Places issued a refund to just one faculty but people at two other faculties, Chelsea Significant and Chelsea Center, are continue to ready to get money back again.
“It’s excessive annoyance,” mentioned Barry Lovette, a father or mother whose two daughters have been setting up to dance together with the Chelsea Superior School marching band at Common Orlando even though his wife served as a chaperone.
Lovette informed News 6 his spouse and children paid out about $2,500 for the trip, which experienced been scheduled for the week of April 1, 2020.
Lovette stated he and other mom and dad have repeatedly attempted to get in touch with Musical Locations devoid of success.
“I’m trying to enlist help to get this funds, not just for our family, but for all the families,” Lovette explained. “And not just for our Chelsea High College, but for all the faculties impacted by this problem.”
Universal Orlando in no way obtained payment from Musical Destinations on behalf of Chelsea Higher University, according to a Universal spokesperson.
News 6 asked for a copy of Chelsea High School’s deal with Musical Places less than Alabama’s public information law, but administrators with the Shelby County Board of Education and learning refused to deliver it.
“In an energy to take care of the circumstance, our attorneys would like us to retain matters private involving the Faculty Board and Musical Destinations at this position in time,” reported John Gwin, the university board’s main monetary officer.
In a Dec. 16, 2020 letter tackled to mom and dad, Gwin indicated that the college board had not been in speak to with Musical Locations given that September 2020, in spite of leaving voicemails and email messages with the firm every day.
The Shelby County Board of Schooling identified it was not possible to file a lawsuit towards Musical Destinations, according to the letter.
“Parents are irate and it’s hurting the faculty,” said Kattie Curiel, who paid $565 for her daughter to vacation to Orlando with the Chelsea Center School band. “I really don’t know how the proprietor (of Musical Places) sleeps at night time.”
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