Brookline officials weigh student exchange to China as coronavirus spreads

BROOKLINE, MASS. (WHDH) - Travel warnings about China as a result of the spreading coronavirus could put a long-running student exchange in jeopardy.

The exchange has gone on for 20 years, and seven Brookline students are currently hosting their Chinese counterparts. Brookline officials will meet tomorrow to decide if high school students will still make a planned trip to China on Feb. 6.

“The school system is concerned because the kids were planning to travel to China, so I put out a press release to tell people not to travel unless it’s essential,” said Dr. Swannie Jett of the Brookline Health Department.

Ezra Korn-Meyer, who has hosted a Chinese teenager for five months, said he’s been anticipating the trip for a long time.

“This has been at the center of my mind for a year and it kind of feels like the rug has been pulled out from under us,”  Korn said. “I don’t know how dangerous it is to be walking the streets of China but if we’re not trying to go to a place that’s not ready to receive us, it doesn’t make sense to go to a place that’s not welcoming.”

“It was a little scary to know we’re moving – possibly moving there – in the heat of this really dangerous virus,” said student Leigh Mitchell.

But Sarah Wu, the teacher who’s accompanied the Chinese students while they stay in Brookline, says she expects the group will return to China on Friday.

“We won’t be canceled because we believe our government can control it and keep us safe,” Wu said.

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