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Should Schools Close on Inauguration Day?

Many schools around the Washington area are closing on Jan. 20. For some, such as the District, Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax, the day was built into the school calendar. For others, such as Prince George's, Loudoun and Charles counties, the decision has been made in the past few weeks.

So, what about other Washington area counties where schools will remain open? For those keeping track, in Maryland, that would be Montgomery, Howard, Anne Arundel and St. Mary's counties. In Montgomery, Superintendent Jerry Weast may be overruled by the county's school board at its Dec. 9 meeting. One middle school teacher tells me that she requested the day off long ago and found her substitute. But she wonders whether the sub will show up once the day gets closer and he realizes that it's Inauguration Day. Weast argues that to close the schools would send working parents -- many of whom don't have the day off -- scrambling for child care unnecessarily. He also points out that it would use up one of the few snow days the county has reserved. The day is also an exam day in the county.

In Howard, the issue hasn't been one. Like Montgomery, Jan. 20 is an exam day in Howard. About two weeks after the election, when schools began fielding questions about the day, Howard issued an advisory telling parents that they could use Jan. 20 as a discretionary day off. In Howard, students get three of those a year. High school students with exams have to work with their teachers to complete missed exams by the end of the week.

There's no question that Inauguration Day -- particularly in this historic year -- is a unique event worthy of the focus of all students. In fact, I'm strongly leaning toward pulling my kid out of school and heading downtown with the 4 million others who are expected to show up. But so long as schools find a way to show the inauguration to kids during the school day and let everyone talk about the event, do they need to be out of school? That's what I recall doing when I was in school.

What are your plans for your kids on Jan. 20? Do you think schools should be closed or open? What is your school planning for Inauguration Day?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  December 1, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Newsmakers
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Comments


"But she wonders whether the sub will show up once the day gets closer and he realizes that it's Inauguration Day."

Duh!

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 1, 2008 7:10 AM | Report abuse

Government is closed and so is Fairfax schools. We plan on watching everything on TV and enjoying the long weekend.

It doesn't bother me that the schools are closing. There are always some unexpected school closings in the winter. Maybe they will be more prudent during the year about snow closings. It wouldn't hurt the schools to extend their school year by one more day either.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 1, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

We're in Fairfax and not only are schools closed Jan 19 (MLK day) and Jan 20 (Inauguration), but they are again closed for 2 days the next week--Jan 26-27. These are for "student holidays". So, that's 4 days in the first month of the year, and I'll only have 1 off from work (MLK). Guess my husband and I will be doing some creative juggling. You would think they could plan a bit better and maybe the second 2 days off could have been eliminated this year.

Posted by: jljardon2 | December 1, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

All inaugurations are historic; it's just that sometimes you don't like the history that's being made.

Seriously, I think that it's good for all people who can - particularly those who live in the DC area - to attend at least one inauguration in their lives, to experience this important part of American democracy in action.

Re: should schools be closed? If it wasn't planned as part of the schedule, it's going to cause a significant disruption to close, so "no." The only reason to close would be that evidence indicates that so many staff/teachers/students will be absent that the day is useless from an instructional point of view.

(That's the official reason that Howard County schools are closed for the Fall Jewish holidays - too many teachers/ students missing.)

foamgnome: "It wouldn't hurt the schools to extend their school year by one more day either." Oh, please don't get me started on this! Howard County schools always plan for ZERO snow days, so every day school is canceled extends the school year (or eats into other breaks if there are too many of them). And then you hear the parents who have planned on the last day of school being June 16 (this year), and so they've planned vacations/other activities starting on the 17th and how DARE the school system extend the year and ruin their vacations?

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 1, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

So what is so historically significant about this inauguration that would suggest schools need not be in session? Are we giving everyone a day off from work to attend? Of course not. But if it's so historically significant, why not? I note that we didn't give everyone the day off to vote, which is much more important. This is a silly, non-issue. This inane trend toward making everyday a holiday due to some "historical significance" (or lack thereof) is ridiculous. Go to school, go to work.

Posted by: flintston | December 1, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Really, summer break is so long to begin with. What is one more day to go to school?

It is another day, the parents don't need care. I guess I am from NY and we are used to more snow days built in the calendar and staying in school for most of June.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 1, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

This is a silly, non-issue.

Posted by: flintston | December 1, 2008 10:33 AM |


What else is new on the OP?

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 1, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

We're in Fairfax and not only are schools closed Jan 19 (MLK day) and Jan 20 (Inauguration), but they are again closed for 2 days the next week--Jan 26-27. These are for "student holidays". So, that's 4 days in the first month of the year, and I'll only have 1 off from work (MLK). Guess my husband and I will be doing some creative juggling. You would think they could plan a bit better and maybe the second 2 days off could have been eliminated this year.

Posted by: jljardon2 | December 1, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse


The second two days you are referring to are teacher workdays in which we will be having in-service time, processing 2nd quarter/semester grades (as the quarter ends on January 23rd), and meeting times to coordinate lesson planning and student learning objectives, as well as to call the parents of students who are not being successful and have failed for the semester.

Sorry it is an inconvenience for you, but work will be getting done at the schools. The other two days are government holidays and teachers and buildings are closed.

Posted by: annwhite1 | December 1, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

that should read "teachers will not be at work and buildings are closed"

Posted by: annwhite1 | December 1, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

foamgnome: "Really, summer break is so long to begin with. What is one more day to go to school?"

It comes down to planning. Some of us know better than to schedule anything for at least a week after the calendar says school ends. But some people don't get the message; they plan big trips or expensive activities and are unhappy when they're forced to change their plans. E.g., if you've rented a place starting June 17, and then you find out that your high schoolers will be taking final exams until June 20 because of snow days/days off for Presidential inaugurations, you get pretty upset because you're now out all that money.

(It's planning on both sides - the school system COULD plan on a certain number of snow days, but they'd rather do it this way for whatever reason.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 1, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

The other two days are government holidays and teachers and buildings are closed.

Posted by: annwhite1 | December 1, 2008 11:08 AM |

The teachers are "closed"? LOL! I'm glad you don't teach my kids...


Posted by: jezebel3 | December 1, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Hell no, did they close for Bush or Clinton? Nope but we are all supposed to bow on bended knee because the liberal media's darling won the election. Ridiculous

Posted by: pwaa | December 1, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Thankfully, Prince William has a regular schedule so there will be no emergencies in our households. Do I think they need to take time off? Not particularly. This is no different than any other election unless we are considering his race to be special? I thought the whole point of being 'colour blind' was that race was NOT relevant so this shouldn't be a historic event but an expected event in a period of supposed equality in his country.

I have been getting a little PO'd at what has been happening in our household regarding days off of school. The night before the day off, I am asked if I mind taking the kids on because they have a day off school and their mother doesn't know what to do with them. On one of those days, I told my husband that I couldn't do it. I had 3 doctor's appointments already made and it wasn't appropriate at one of those places to leave the kids in the waiting room for however long it was going to take (it was almost 2 hours). I assume these days are being announced long before the night before. It would be nice if the mother could get her act together and request our help earlier than the evening before. Or heck... get her act together to request a schedule change at work. I know that is possible because she has done it before to go to an interview.

So I am now waiting to find out how my planned Christmas vacation is going to be changed to accommodate the fact the kids are out for 2 weeks at Christmas. I am sure someone will tell me on Dec 21st that I need to look after the kids on Dec 22nd and I had best clear my schedule.

Posted by: Billie_R | December 1, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Not being in DC, well, it doesn't much affect me. I think being in school is a good thing, to discuss the transfer of power, etc. It is truly incredible, no matter who wins (unless, of course, it's someone being re-elected...but even then, it's the pomp and circumstance that is beautiful).

So...my opinion is that the school knew about the inauguration years ago (really) - if they wanted to create a calendar that called for closing schools, they should have done it when the calendar is created. It is absurd to change the school calendar during the year for something you completely knew about. Why exactly are they being closed?

I can understand closing schools that may be near the inauguration (i.e., IN DC) - and I did hear about one plan that would allow students to take an excused absence - but also to be open. So students wouldn't be penalized for not showing up. I didn't know about the testing at the time, that is definitely a huge issue.

AGAIN - it was well known when this event was going to be taking place. To make the decision ONLY because of who the new prez is is ludicrous. The transfer of power in this country, every 4 or 8 years, is, again, wonderful and incredible, and unlike many other countries.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | December 1, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

fr flintston:

>...So what is so historically significant about this inauguration that would suggest schools need not be in session? ...

Um, for the first time, a NONWHITE person was elected as President. That alone is very significant. It's too bad some can't realize it.

Posted by: Alex511 | December 1, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse


So I am now waiting to find out how my planned Christmas vacation is going to be changed to accommodate the fact the kids are out for 2 weeks at Christmas. I am sure someone will tell me on Dec 21st that I need to look after the kids on Dec 22nd and I had best clear my schedule.


Posted by: Billie_R | December 1, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

No one can abuse you without your permission. Set & enforce the boundaries now! The "chump" example isn't good for the kiddies.

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 1, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Alex511, you only answered part of flintston's question

".So what is so historically significant about this inauguration that would suggest schools need not be in session? ..."

The significance is that the newly-elected President is not "white". I think most of us realize that. Does that warrant school closure?

In other words, if it was McCain being inaugurated, schools would be open, but for Obama they should be closed? Is that what you're saying?

As atlmom points out, the fact that there would be an inauguration on January 20, 2009 was known about 70 years ago (when the date was changed from March to January). The fact that there would be a new President inaugurated on that date was known more than 4 years ago. That part ain't a surprise.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 1, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

So tell me Alex511, why does his being "non-white," as you put it, make his inauguration so special? I note that I am told that I must be color-blind in all situations, uh, except now, when someone wants to make a big deal out of this guy's skin-color, I'm supposed to go along with it. You can't have it both ways Alex...maybe YOU think you can, but you can't. Creating such contrivances doesn't reduce racism, it furthers racism. How would it have sounded to you if McCain were elected and everybody said, "Hey let's close school to attend the inauguration because McCain is the x-numberth WHITE guy to be elected." Let me guess, you wouldn't like that too much, would you? Well, neither would I. Likewise, I don't like the implication of this story, i.e. that everybody should do something different for this guy's inauguration because of the color of his skin. Everybody should do what they've always done, go to school and go to work.

Posted by: flintston | December 1, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I think that some people here are missing the point. They would not be closing schools in reverence to a "historical inauguration." The point is should schools in the DC metro area be closed because of the circumstances arising from this particular inauguration. There are going to be an unprecedented number of people attending. The traffic will be an absolute nightmare. There will be many families (including the teacher's families) who want to either brave the crowds and take their children to see it or want to watch together from the comfort of their homes. I can understand the open, but excused absence argument. But, I think that it would be better to close all schools in the immediate DC area, including Montgomery County.

Posted by: SweetieJ | December 1, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

When Obama was elected, everyone on this board was talking about how historical it was to have a black president (ahem, excuse me, I think he's actually half-black, but that escaped most of you). I asked why couldn't we just be happy that the best candidate won, instead of focusing on his skin color? I was told that because of my relative youth, I was blissfully unaware of the historical significance, because I was not witness to the Civil Rights Act enactment, Jim Crow laws, etc. That may have been true--and what a wonderful thing that I was capable of being slightly colorblind. However, I notice the tone of today's board going the other direction. One person points out the historical significance of the inauguration of our first nonwhite president, and everyone starts in with "OMG BE COLORBLIND GEEZ." I'm confused. Are we supposed to focus on his race, or not?

That said, while I didn't vote racially (nor would I ever), this inauguration means a lot to DCers. First, this one is supposed to have the biggest turnout ever--Metro has warned people to walk, even. With DC's racial makeup and history of racial problems, a half-black president is a big deal. Even to those who are completely colorblind, the logistical issues of being in school on Inauguration Day (I'm talking those who go to school in DC), it's going to be miserable getting to school and back among the crowd.

Posted by: Monagatuna | December 1, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Mona

Your points are good, but note that DC public schools are always closed for every inauguration for exactly the reasons you mention - it's just impractical to expect people to make it given the logistics. (Similarly, Federal employees who work in DC always get Inauguration Day off, while those who work far enough out in MD or VA don't. Logistics again.)

Note Stacey's original article - certain close-in school districts knew about this day, oh, 70 years ago, and built in the day off when they put the calendar together for this school year. They'd have the day off no matter who it was being inaugurated.

Other districts, traditionally unaffected by inauguration logistics, scheduled school for that day and are now (in some cases) being asked to close, not because of the logistics, but because of who's being inaugurated. That's the difference.

(It could legitimately be argued that PG County schools will be affected by the logistics - huge Metro and traffic tie-ups affecting schools inside the Beltway - and they've decided to close. Others, not so much.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 1, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

IMHO -- DC schools should be closed for logistical reasons. Its not because a non-white person was elected but because it will be a logistical nightmare to get kids into the city. As for surrounding areas, where the issue is that teachers want to take the day off . . . they have vacation days. . . use them. That is why you are provided them. If you do not have seniority to get a day when everyone else wants it off. . . you have to go to work.

Posted by: MomTo2Kids | December 1, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I work in DC for a nonprofit, and we're not scheduled to be closed that day. I dread the Metro ride in and back home, but it's either deal with it or take PTO in order to avoid it. They are predicting an overwhelming number of visitors for the inauguration and our roads and transit systems will be taxed to the limit. It should be, um, "interesting" to say the least. :)

Lynne

Posted by: lsturt | December 1, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Washington County already has the 19th and 20th off (19th for Martin Luther King's birthday and the 20th is a professional learning day for teachers), so we don't have to worry about whether or not they'll be talking about it (rest assured they are, as they did a good deal of teaching about the election this year-they even held a mock election for the students so they could choose who they wanted to vote for). I plan to spend the day watching the inauguration on TV with my kids and talking with them about what it means. Having grown up just outside the Beltway in PG County, I have a healthy disrespect for the road conditions on a NORMAL day...Goddess only knows what kind of a mess they're going to be on that day! Even the hotels in Hagerstown and Martinsburg are booked solid for that date already, so that gives us a hint of what the traffic down in DC is going to be like that day...yikes!

Anyway, I digress...both days are not school days here, but rest assured I will be discussing both Martin Luther King's impact on the country and equality for all as well as the Presidential inauguration with my kids during homeschool on those days, so I'm not wasting the opportunity!

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | December 1, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Goddess only knows what kind of a mess they're going to be on that day! ... rest assured I will be discussing both Martin Luther King's impact on the country and equality for all as well as the Presidential inauguration with my kids during homeschool on those days, so I'm not wasting the opportunity!

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | December 1, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse


Grammar & Spelling Police!

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 1, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

jezebel, I apologize for any inadvertent grammar errors (an occupational hazard of trying to correct homeschool seat work and type a post at the same time), but what spelling errors warrant the spelling police? I meant to say Goddess because my religion HAS a Goddess as well as a God!

Tomato, tomahto....

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | December 1, 2008 7:46 PM | Report abuse

No, schools should not be canceled unless they are located in area where the crowd would disrupt the learning process.

I agree wholly with flintson at 1:42 who stated "I note that I am told that I must be color-blind in all situations, uh, except now, when someone wants to make a big deal out of this guy's skin-color, I'm supposed to go along with it."

Unless they want to cancel school on every inauguration day, they shouldn't arbitrarily close on this one!

Posted by: peonymom | December 2, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"Sorry it is an inconvenience for you, but work will be getting done at the schools. The other two days are government holidays and teachers and buildings are closed."

Posted by: annwhite1 | December 1, 2008 11:08 AM |

Whiny teacher alert! I don't get to shut down my office to get my work accomplished, I don't get to work 7am-3pm, only 8.5 months a year, with a full year's salary, but I sure DO get sick of teachers complaining constantly about how hard their jobs are and how they're doing it "for the children". PUKE.

Posted by: sooverDCgovernment | December 2, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Whiney teacher alert? You are sadly mistaken if you think teachers actually work the hours you stated!!
"I don't get to shut down my office to get my work accomplished, I don't get to work 7am-3pm, only 8.5 months a year, with a full year's salary"
I love my job and gladly work the hours I need to work to get my job done--FOR THE CHILDREN!! Teacher Professional Work Days are needed to get a lot of the paperwork completed that is needed to make sure we are accountable for teaching the students!
The Inauguration is a very historical day and I hope that we do have school because it will be a day where we can help the children understand the importance of being able to choose who our President will be and that this year it is significant because we will have a President who is not white (it should be noted...sorry!!)
I am sure the above person who made the comment actually works a lot less than I do and he/she also makes a lot more money than I do...but I am happy with my job and I know that I am making a difference! So, before you go about making generalizations about teachers, maybe you should raise your hand and wait for someone to ask you your opinion!!

Posted by: mondooodoolle | December 2, 2008 9:49 PM | Report abuse

I AM A STUDENT IN THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY SCHOOL I THINK THAT SINCE THE IDEA IS OUT AND OTHER COUNTIES WILL HAVE THE DAY OFF THAT STUDENTS IN MONTGOMERY COUNTIES WILL DO IT ANYWAY SINCE THE OTHERS ARE SO IF THEY DON'T HAVE THE DAY OFF A LOT OFF STUDENTS WON'T COME SO IT'S A WASTE OF TIME TO NOT CLOSE THE SCHOOL THAT DAY THIS IS AN OPINION FROM A STUDENT

Posted by: romeoniyo | December 8, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

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