Weast: Sorry, Kids, New Prez Doesn't Mean No School
Sorry, kids, nice effort with the online petition to have school canceled in Montgomery County on Inauguration Day, but Superintendent Jerry Weast isn't buying.
"While I appreciate the magnitude of this occasion and the excitement it is generating, I do not recommend that we close schools for the day for several reasons," Weast writes in a memo to school board members. School systems all around the region are considering whether to cancel classes on Jan. 20.
Weast's arguments: 1) Most parents won't have the day off, so closing school would create a child care crisis for many Montgomery residents.
2) The school calendar only has four days of fudge in it; if we get hit with significant snow this winter, closing school on Inauguration Day could push the county under the legal minimum of school days, requiring an expense of about $600,000 to extend school one day into the summer break.
3) The 36,000 students who rely on school programs for their main meal of the day could be left without breakfast or lunch that day.
(Are you getting the sense that Weast really, really doesn't want to close school on Jan. 20? There's more....)
4) Weast says it's "unrealistic" to believe that many MoCo students would actually head downtown to brave the massive crowds expected for the Obama inaugural. And he argues that they'd learn and see more if they stay in school and watch on TV with their classmates and teachers.
5) The system would still have to shell out big money for security, janitors, day care and other services that go on even when school is out.
The school board hasn't acted yet on Weast's recommendation, but despite the overkill in the superintendent's memo, he's right to be skeptical of the groundswell of opinion that schools be shuttered for the day. It makes sense to shut down the D.C. schools because the anticipated traffic nightmare could well make it difficult for students and teachers to get to school that morning. But with the rare exception of those kids whose families are deeply involved in the administration or the Obama campaign, there's no more reason to close suburban schools here on Jan. 20 than there would be to shut schools in Norfolk, New York or Nome.
Every schoolchild should have the chance on any Inauguration Day to take a few minutes out of classes that day to watch the ceremonies and the new president's speech. But that's perfectly sufficient. Your thoughts?
From noon on today, you can check out the new edition of Raw Fisher Radio, featuring a discussion of the Inauguration and just how much change a new administration brings to the Washington area. Just how transient a community is this, really?
Also: The Post has launched Inauguration Watch, a blog with updates on all things inaugural. Go to washingtonpost.com/inaugurationwatch.
By Marc Fisher |
November 18, 2008; 11:40 AM ET
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