Away from the spotlight focused on the Sound of North marching band, a small group from Columbus East High School also will be in the nation’s capitol during Friday’s presidential inauguration.
Seven months before President-elect Donald Trump chose Columbus native and then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate in July, East government teacher Troy Buntin was organizing a student trip to Washington, D.C., for this week’s inaugural festivities.
Working with WorldStrides, a Charlottesville, Virginia, company that organizes student travel packages, Buntin posted information and a sign-up sheet last January for any student wanting to go, he said.
But by the time the deadline arrived last spring, only four students and one parent elected to go.
“When you put an almost $1,900 price tag on a trip, that throws a lot of heat into the equation,” Buntin said.
After Indiana’s connection to the inauguration became known, the East teacher reached out to a few members of Indiana’s congressional delegation for assistance in providing his group a good view of the swearing-in ceremony, which begins at noon Friday.
However, the students later learned they would have to watch from the general population area, Buntin said.
“Since our group is so small and we come from the vice president’s hometown, I thought they could make accommodations,” Buntin said. “I’m disappointed, but we’ll make due.”
While they may not be on global television, flexibility, time and a lack of pressure appear to be advantages the East students will have over the Columbus North band.
Rather than spending 20 hours traveling by bus, the Olympian delegation will invest up to four hours in travel time. Their flight leaves Indianapolis International Airport at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, and doesn’t arrive back in Indiana until 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Buntin said.
Unlike the Sound of North, the East students won’t be forced to arrive at most of their destinations several hours early and be subjected to Secret Service checks for security purposes, the teacher said.
The East student trip itinerary provides plenty of time to pick and choose among the most popular of the 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries. In comparison, the North students will have three hours Thursday for a Smithsonian visit before they have to head to Baltimore to check into their hotel.
While the East students will have the opportunity to walk around District of Columbia attractions such as the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, the North students will see the sights during a short guided tour.
Other scheduled stops for the East students include the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery and the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Buntin said.
Although WorldStrides is qualified to offer college credit on some student trips, it isn’t being sought for this excursion. Therefore, there won’t be any pressure for students to write essays, study or take tests, Buntin said.
Security will be tight throughout Washington, D.C., where more than 1 million additional visitors are expected to attend inaugural activities.
Nevertheless, the government teacher said he believes the experience of being in the nation’s capitol during a presidential inauguration will be something most of the students will never forget.
“No matter what your political affiliation might be, there’s nothing like watching democratic principles unfold live before your eyes,” Buntin said.
And while protests are expected, the East educator expressed confidence that his students will witness a traditional and peaceful transfer of power.
“That’s something that isn’t prevalent in many places,” Buntin said.
The following students from Columbus East High School will be in Washington, D.C., from Thursday through Sunday.
- Olivia Ortman
- Reanna Cox
- Laci McIntire
- Chris Borowski
East government teacher Troy Buntin and parent Dawn McIntire will supervise the students as chaperones during the four-day trip.