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Been on a ropes course? Going as a group and climbing and balancing and collectively figuring out how to conquer high and scary obstacles is great fun, and it’s terrific for team building.

Back before the October fires, students in the yearbook class at Santa Rosa High School agreed they’d benefit from and have a great time on a ropes course. They pooled money and yearbook advisor Jessica Dennis booked the Four Winds course near Occidental for Oct. 25. She sent in $1,920, or $60 apiece for 32 people.

Then the firestorms struck.

Dennis emailed course owner John Springer on Oct. 17. She said she had to cancel because Santa Rosa schools would remain closed until late that month, and with all of the lost days the yearbook class could not reschedule a visit to the course anytime this school year.

Then the teacher asked, “How do we handle refunds?”

Springer replied that a visit to the ropes course would do the students good: “A day outdoors, in the fresh air with their peers, working together lets them be in their bodies — and get out of their heads!”

The contract between the class and Four Winds specifies a cancellation fee of half of what the class paid: $960. Springer said he would not keep that fee if the SRHS class would reschedule for sometime this academic year.

“Stunned” was the word teacher Dennis used in response. She told Springer she couldn’t believe he would withhold a full refund from the students and that he regards it no big deal for them to miss yet another day of school.

The teacher wrote, “The casual tone in your reply to me suggests I am doing a disservice to my students by canceling this, that I should simply reschedule the date. Perhaps you don’t understand just how hard hit my classroom community was by the fires. My students have missed 15 days of their school year already, due to the school closure. That alone is 10 percent of the entire school year ... Missing ANY more days of school, which going to your ropes course requires, is not an option. It would be harmful to their education. Period.”

Springer is unmoved. He told me in an email, “My feeling is that Jessica just doesn’t want to be bothered to reschedule — and that she’s not being honest with me. I’ve been at this for almost three decades — too long to be snowed by claims that rescheduling ‘is not an option.’”

One day, kids in the SRHS yearbook class surely will treat themselves to a ropes course. But probably not Four Winds.

_____

THE UNION HOTEL, also in Occidental, is on any night a delightful place to dine. About a dozen seats still are open for a community meal Sunday that looks to be downright historic.

Owner Barbara Gonnella and her crew will prepare an Italian feast for a benefit supper and auction hosted by parishioners of the picturesque St. Philip the Apostle Church in Occidental and St. Teresa of Avila Church in Bodega.

Proceeds will go to upkeep of the landmark churches. And this year, the dinner’s hosts doubled the admission price, to $90, so they can make meaningful contributions also to efforts by Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul to help low-income fire victims get into and furnish new residences.

For more information, go to stphilipstteresa.org. If you’d like to come to the dinner, it’s best you call 707-875-8826.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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