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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
Previous: D.C. Political Justice? Will Barry Decide Nickles' Fate? | Next: Score One For Fenty & Nickles

Comments

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It makes sense to stay in school. The school district has until January 20th to develop a curriculum to go with the inauguration. The students should be able to watch live from their classrooms and have follow up discussions on the event.

It would be a much better learning event that way.

Marc – not too sure if Nome even has snow days. With all the practice they get, they know how to deal with the snow a lot better.

Posted by: SoMD1 | November 18, 2008 12:12 PM

FYI, Fairfax County schools are closed on Inauguration Day which creates a nice 4-day weekend that we have long used for a family ski trip out West. The crowds typically are not that bad and you don't get hit with holiday airfare prices.

Posted by: skipper7 | November 18, 2008 2:00 PM

Just because schools are open doesn't mean parents can't still take their kids downtown with the 4 million other people to watch the parade and other festivities. But I'm glad Weast agrees the kids should be in school.

Posted by: Diner65 | November 18, 2008 2:28 PM


Not necessarily snow days, but we do have cold weather days when the temp reaches minus 60 farenheit or a snow day when there's a severe blizzard so bad you cannot see the hands of your out-stretched arm, that's our snow day.

Posted by: vchimegalrea | November 18, 2008 5:15 PM

Dr. Jerry Weast has this one totally incorrect. As an African American parent, I will be taking my children to this historic inauguration. Never in the history of this country has this Presidential inauguration generated so much hope and change for this country. I applaud Fairfax, Alexandria and Prince George County superintendents for having the insight and courage to understand change and hope. It speaks to the school systems that open a dialogue for cultural change and awareness. Dr. Weast, look at the numbers and don't assume that children won't go to the inauguration. Do the right thing and close the schools. Dr. Weast, Don't let age be a factor. Are you out of touch? It may come back and prove disastrous to you. Maybe we need change

Posted by: boydwats | November 18, 2008 8:19 PM

His point is there are costs associated with closing schools and it's not something to be done lightly. So how come he closes schools at the whisper of a rumor of a forecast of snow?

Posted by: washpost4 | November 19, 2008 8:14 AM

"Not necessarily snow days, but we do have cold weather days when the temp reaches minus 60 farenheit or a snow day when there's a severe blizzard so bad you cannot see the hands of your out-stretched arm, that's our snow day."

Posted by: vchimegalrea | November 18, 2008 5:15 PM


WOW!!!!! By those standards, if you live in this area, vchimegalrea, you must laugh at us effette Washington Beltway types (I'm one of them as I was born and lived a substantial part of my life in tropical and snow-free Puerto Rico), when we quiver at the news of three inches of snow and how we run for the hills and hunker down in fear!

Negative sixty and unable to see beyond your arms! I would be hiding under my bed in those conditions!

Posted by: Kruhn1 | November 19, 2008 9:24 AM

"Just because schools are open doesn't mean parents can't still take their kids downtown with the 4 million other people to watch the parade and other festivities. But I'm glad Weast agrees the kids should be in school."

Unfortuntely, for high school students, it is not that simple. MCPS exams are scheduled for inauguration day, and making up exams is an extremely difficult process, from getting the excused absence that is required to coordinating with the teacher as to when a make up exam would be possible.
In addition, keeping school open does not allow teachers to experience the inauguration. While high school teachers could watch it and really teach about it, elementary school teachers simply will not have anywhere near the same experience that even high school teachers will have.

--Laura Epstein
creator of the online petition and Walter Johnson High School student

Posted by: jjepstein | November 21, 2008 6:00 PM

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