LISTOWEL, ONT. -- Forty-one students from Listowel District Secondary School (LDSS) are planning on coming home this Saturday, following a school-sanctioned trip to the United Kingdom.

The students left Listowel on Thursday, just when the COVID-19 outbreak was really starting to make serious headlines in Canada.

At the time there were travel advisories for places like Italy, China and Iran, but not the United Kingdom.

But almost immediately after students arrived, non-essential travel outside of Canada was being discouraged by public health officials. A travel advisory for the United Kingdom was sent out on Saturday.

And work to get the students home started on Saturday as well, say school board officials.

The trip to London, U.K. was on the chopping block in early March, but the travel company, Avon-Maitland District School Board, LDSS administration and parents opted for a modified itinerary that focused on rural, less-populated parts of the northern United Kingdom, says Chera Longston, with the school board.

Despite a board policy stating that trip cancellation insurance must be purchased for all trips out of the country, not everyone on this trip had trip cancellation insurance.

“It is true that some parents did not purchase travel insurance, but it was not helpful in this case because typical insurance does not apply unless there is a travel advisory in place, which there was not at the time the trip left. Only the upgraded insurance, cancel any time for any reason, would have been helpful in this situation and most people do not opt to pay for the extra coverage," Longston says.

Longston adds that the school board is investigating why all LDSS students on the U.K. trip did not have even the basic trip cancellation insurance, which is a mandatory board policy.

The 41 students and five adult chaperones, including the school’s principal, are scheduled to fly home on Saturday.

But the school board says they’re working with the travel company to get the kids and their chaperones on flights before then.

Speaking to students on the trip, Longston says, “They’ve been very, very grateful for the short time they were there. They’ve said, we’re healthy, we’re safe, we’re taking all the necessary precautions while we’re here. We’re having a wonderful time, but we recognized it’s time to come home.”