Federal closures across the country affected several trips planned for months throughout the community
When Congress failed to resolve the dispute over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (colloquially known as ObamaCare), the U.S. government shut down Oct. 1. After more than two weeks, it reopened Oct. 17, when President Barack Obama signed the bill to reopen the U.S. government and raise the debt ceiling. The closures affected millions of people—not exempting some members of the Hockaday community. Trips planned months before the shutdown were postponed, cancelled or, in some cases, changed for the better.
History Department Chair Steve Kramer had scheduled his American Civil War class to fly to Washington, D.C. from Oct. 11 to Oct. 13 to visit various battlefield sites, including Harper’s Ferry, Antietam and Gettysburg. However, due to the shutdown, the plans were put on hold.
Kramer cancelled the museum, hotel and airline reservations and did not officially schedule the trip for another date until the federal government had reopened. The trip also requires 10 people for the trip to make, and it remained doubtful if all of the students could travel on the rescheduled weekend. But the new dates in December actually allow more girls to take the trip because early college application deadlines have passed.
Twelve seniors—Ali Aston, Anna Dyer, Grace Gilker, Samantha Kim, Devon Knott, Meredith Mihalopoulos, Molly Montgomery, Gretchen O’Brien, Caitlin Sellers, Christine Smith, Sarah Startz and Alexandra Villareal—and two chaperones— Kramer and Lower School teacher Karen Roberts—will take the trip from Dec. 5 to Dec. 8 and visit the same sites as originally planned.
“No matter how oblivious you are to the news of the world, you find out about the government shutdown,” Gilker said.
Seashore No More
Since the beginning of the summer, Katie McKnight, Food and Catering Administrative Assistant, planned to go to Corpus Christi with her boyfriend Oct. 12-14 to visit South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, Lexington ship and Padre Island National Seashore.
The morning she intended to visit the seashore, though, she discovered it was closed due to the shutdown. “I was kind of mad,” McKnight said. “I realized the shutdown doesn’t really affect you until it happens to you.”
But she found an alternative, instead spending the day at the beach at Mustang Island State Park. “It wasn’t a big deal, but it sure was disappointing,” she said.
When Centennial Director Holly Hook heard about the shutdown on the news, her mind went to her brother-in-law, Todd Polson. “I was concerned it was affecting him. It was a big deal at the time,” Hook said.
Over the summer, Hook’s family scheduled a trip to visit Polson’s family in Redondo Beach, Calif. from Oct. 8-15. Hook had expected to just not see Polson as often during the trip because he would be working.
Polson works for NASA as Criminal Investigator in the Office of Inspector General in Long Beach, Calif. Although the shutdown began Oct. 1, he still had to check in to work because he was the one person assigned as “essential” Duty Agent to handle emergencies. This meant he was required by the government to work. He was told that he would be paid for that week, Oct. 1-4, but when he would be paid was uncertain. He would also not be paid regularly—for him, every two weeks.
By serendipity, the shutdown actually benefited the trip: after working for the first week of the shutdown, Polson stayed at home and was able to spend more time with Hook’s family. “It was awesome. We got to see him a lot,” Hook said. They visited the space shuttle Endeavor, played soccer with the kids and enjoyed the beach.
Polson was fortunate enough that the furlough did not put a major economic strain on his family. He returned to work Oct. 17, just after Hook and her family left California.
“For our little slice,” Hook said, “it had a silver lining.”
– Tiffany Le
with additional reporting by Katie Payne