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Inauguration Day: A Time to Teach, or a Day Off for Students?

Is the inauguration of the nation’s first African American president a day to close schools, or is it a teachable moment in classrooms?

Some school systems in the Washington area will be closed on Inauguration Day for various reasons. Others will be open. And some teachers are lobbying school officials to create a holiday to recognize the added historical significance of a Barack Obama presidency.

Bill Fisher, president of the teachers union in Charles County, said he has received several calls from teachers requesting Inauguration Day as a holiday. Fisher said some teachers who are parents have children participating in the festivities and want to see them.

Some teachers in Montgomery County would like the day off, as well. Others view it as “a learning moment” and would like to be in school.

“There’s been debate going on on our online forum,” said Tom Israel, executive director of the Montgomery County Education Association. “Some people are in favor of it, and some people aren’t.”

Brian Edwards, chief of staff to Montgomery Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, said schools will remain open as planned.

“We have no plans to close school on Inauguration Day. Indeed, it will be a historic moment and I am certain that many teachers will use it as part of their lessons that day,” he said in an e-mail.

School systems in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Charles, Loudoun, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties and others plan to be open on Inauguration Day, based on calendars that were set long before the election was decided. Others, including the District and Fairfax, planned to be closed. District schools would face an insurmountable logistical hurdle to get students in and out of some classes that day, while Fairfax recognizes it as a holiday.

Schools in Frederick and Arlington will be closed to students but open to teachers, who have work days in both counties.The Arlington school board weighed the inauguration in its decision. Frederick officials did not.

“The Board was aware last spring that Jan. 20 would be Inauguration Day, so it was considered in their decision when the calendar was set, long before anyone knew who would be running for office this fall,” said Linda Erdos, Arlington schools spokeswoman.

Elementary schoolers in Prince William County have a half day of school -- not because of the inauguration, but for parent-teacher conferences.

-- Daniel de Vise and Megan Greenwell

By Washington Post Editors  |  November 12, 2008; 1:10 PM ET  | Category:  Post Coverage
Previous: Montana: First in Inaugural Partying? | Next: National Park Service: Fewer Bleachers, Better Viewing for Parade Watchers

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Course the other question is how many area people will pull their kids from school that day, whether it's a sanctioned absence or not?

Posted by: forget@menot.com | November 12, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Loudoun is currently discussing whether to change the schedule for this year and all future inaugural years to make inauguration day a student and staff holiday. The concern is in finding enough subs to cover the teachers who plan the day's events.

Posted by: kacd | November 12, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Some of the local school districts just realized January 20th was inaguration Day---scary. All Federal Government offices in DC (I am not sure about suburban metor areas like the Pentagon) will be observing the day as a federal holiday due to the logistics.

I am suprised that more states outside the metro Dc area arent observing the days off because of the historical signifigance.

It will be interesting to see --how many schools who dont close will have their tvs in school on tho watch the event.

Posted by: djp98374 | November 12, 2008 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Maybe I'm color-blind, but I don't see why schools should have off just because the president being sworn in is African American. Yes, it is a first--but is it really the right thing to boil this whole presidency down to a race thing? If a woman had been elected would people be suggesting school be cancelled? A Latino/Latina?

Now if schools don't close it's going to turn into a race thing--how schools are not honoring the historical significance of the event. If we're supposed to use the inauguration as a teaching moment, is the only thing we're interested in teaching about the color of the President's skin?

Bottom line is that a very select few are going to be able to get anywhere near the actual festivities; the rest of America is going to be watching it on TV. If schools really want to ensure kids watch it on TV, isn't it better to keep them in school that day? There are plenty of parents--including me--who really aren't that interested in the event and would probably forget to turn the TV on for it.

Posted by: maggie7 | November 18, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

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