Flu virus forces Benson students to wait for national BPA conference

BENSON -- Federal health officials may be toning down the alert on the H1N1 novel influenza virus, but some west central students are still dealing with the unanticipated aftermath of the swine flu scare.

BENSON -- Federal health officials may be toning down the alert on the H1N1 novel influenza virus, but some west central students are still dealing with the unanticipated aftermath of the swine flu scare.

Students from across the country were supposed to be in Dallas for several days through this weekend to attend the Business Professionals of America 2009 National Leadership Conference. That was until it was cancelled and rescheduled for June 17.

With the postponement, many students had to decide whether to make the summer conference date or opt out. Benson High School and Willmar Senior High School were just two of the schools in west central Minnesota contemplating that decision.

According to Associated Press reports from last week, officials of Texas' University Interscholastic Leagues closed all public high school athletic and academic competitions until Monday, following the recommendation of the state's department of health services.

Dallas was scheduled to hold the Business Professionals of America national conference before the University Interscholastic Leagues decision forced the cancellation.


"It's pretty tough to hold a national conference for students when the state you're holding it in suspended competition," said Lee Westrum, superintendent of Benson Public Schools.

According to the organization's Web site, the BPA is a career technical student organization for more than 51,000 students in 23 states pursuing careers in business management, office administration, information technology and other related career fields.

During the organization's four-day national conferences, students can network with other students; compete in competitions involving different business skills with computer applications, such as advanced accounting, spreadsheets and graphic design; and run for an officer's position on the BPA national board.

Westrum said Benson High School had planned to send 17 students to Dallas on Wednesday morning before the organization cancelled and rescheduled the conference.

Peggy Bausman, adviser of the Benson High School chapter of BPA, said this week that she has had only one student so far indicate she couldn't make the rescheduled June 17-21 conference -- due to a summer job. Bausman suspects two or three other students will probably have a similar conflict.

Losing those students is a shame, Westrum said, because Benson students have performed quite well in the conference's competitions in the past.

Bausman said Benson has had someone qualify for nationals each of the 23 years she has supervised the chapter. She's even had a first-place winner and a handful of students who were finalists at the national events.

However, with the conference postponed to a summer month, Bausman said she is unsure of how well her students will fare in the conference events.


"They get into 'summer mode' real quick and right now we're still in 'school mode,'" Bausman said. "It's going to be interesting."

Westrum said he didn't know just how many schools were going to make the rescheduled conference, but Benson will be one of them. He said each school had to reply to the organization last week about whether their students could attend.

Willmar Senior High School is one of the competing chapters that decided to opt out of the rescheduled date.

Jennifer Maras, adviser of the Willmar chapter of BPA, said Wednesday that Willmar had 14 students registered to go to the conference this week but will not send any of them to the June 17 conference.

"It's a huge bummer for us, but it is just what works best for our needs," Maras said in Wednesday phone message.

According to the national conference Web site, Business Professionals of America will refund Willmar's registration fees for the convention.

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