At Monday’s Wabash City Schools (WCS) board meeting, Superintendent Jason Callahan announced the long-planned Japanese Exchange Program will be delayed by a year due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.

This April, around 20 Wabash High School (WHS) students and their families were set to participate in by hosting 44 students from a private high school outside of Tokyo, Japan.

During the Japanese students’ visit, they were set to learn about Wabash, experience American culture and attend classes at WHS. Then, this summer, during the 2020 Summer Olympics, WHS students were set to have the opportunity to travel to Japan to stay with the students they hosted.

Last month, passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise line were quarantined for two weeks outside Yokohama, Japan after dozens of passengers were diagnosed with novel disease.

Callahan said he wanted to emphasize the trip was delayed not canceled.

“I’m real proud of that partnership,” he said. “We are teaching global citizenship. Our kids, even through this, are seeing that things that happen across the world have a direct impact on Wabash.”

Callahan said a Chinese exchange planned for August might be in danger of being postponed, as well.

“We haven’t heard much about that, but it could be at risk,” he said.

WHS Principal Kyle Wieland said the only negative of the delay was that it wasn’t happening this year.

“None of our students who were traveling there were seniors and so they’ll all have the opportunity to do that,” he said. “And I think the additional time is going to make this a better program because of the cost of it.”

The estimated cost per student is $2,800. To help alleviate costs of the program, Mayor Scott Long has announced he will provide a dollar-for-dollar match for any donations made to the WCS Foundation Fund held at the Community Foundation of Wabash County.

“I think by having more time for students to generate the funds, we are going to have more students who are going to be able to attend in a year,” he said.

Wieland said the extra time will allow the school to facilitate additional cultural experiences and work on learning the language before embarking.

“We met with them and there was a good interest in both of those topics,” he said. “I’m really happy with all the positives that come along with all that additional time.”

Donations will support the expenses of the program, including travel, and will not support specific students.

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