Students in Peru

A group of 15 students and four teachers with The Traveling School, based in Bozeman, were quarantined in a hostel near Trujillo, Peru.

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A group of 15 students and four teachers from a school based in Bozeman are stuck in Peru after its borders were closed in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s not known when they’ll be able to go home.

Administrators for The Traveling School in Bozeman are working with the U.S. State Department, members of Congress and the U.S. Embassy in Peru to find a way to get the group stateside. But as it stands now, the group is quarantined in a hostel on the coast near Trujillo in the northern part of the country.

Bozeman resident Sandy Erhardt’s daughter, Bella Vincens, 18, is part of the all-female group of high school students. Erhardt said her daughter has always been adventurous and was excited for the experiential learning opportunity. She said the girls were taking surfing lessons just days before they were confined to the hostel.

“It was an amazing experience before the quarantine,” Erhardt said.

The group has been in South America since early February, when they arrived in Ecuador to begin a 15-week semester traveling through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. The group left Ecuador March 13 and went to Peru, which has fewer cases of the novel coronavirus than Ecuador, according to a news release from the school.

On March 15, the Peruvian government declared a national state of emergency, putting in place a daily curfew, restricting regional travel and closing all international travel to and from the country, according to the U.S. Embassy. A 15-day, mandatory, country-wide quarantine is in place and only exempt when people need food or medical care.

Jennifer Royall, executive director of the school, said the goal for now is to get the group to the capital, Lima, about a 10-hour drive from where they are now. She said she doesn’t have a timeline for that yet.

The group needs authorization to leave the region.

Royall said the girls are trying to make the best of the situation, that they’re still studying and threw themselves a prom the other night.

According to updates posted to the U.S. Embassy’s Twitter account, almost 800 U.S. residents have been evacuated from Peru so far.

However, the embassy posted an update on its website Tuesday saying all flights from Peru to the U.S. had been delayed and that people should stay in their lodging until further notice.

The school said in its news release that administrators are hopeful “that the State Department, Embassy and Trump administration will quickly facilitate this negotiation process with the Peruvian government.”

Montana’s congressional delegation has sent updates over the last week about efforts to help Montanans return from overseas, including about 16 Montanans who were able to board flights home on Sunday after being stranded on a cruise ship that eventually docked in Hawaii.

Royall said the school has been in contact with the Montana delegation and others from other states — the students on the trip are from all over the country.

Sen. Jon Tester said in an emailed statement that he’s been in touch with the school, administrators and families of the students throughout this process.

“Their safety remains my top priority as we continue to coordinate closely with the State Department, airlines, and other federal agencies to ensure they return home as quickly as possible,” Tester said.

A spokesperson for Sen. Steve Daines said in an email that the senator “is working with the families and top administration officials, including the U.S. Ambassador of Peru, on timing and options to get everyone back to Montana and home safely.”

Erhardt said she spoke with both Tester’s and Daines’ offices on Tuesday. She said that the uncertainty of the situation is hard, but that the school has been “working through this in a smart way.”

“I’m optimistic. I know it will work out,” Erhardt said.

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Shaylee Ragar can be reached at sragar@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2607.