Superintendent Weast Opposes Closing Schools for Presidential Inauguration
Superintendent Weast Opposes Closing
Schools for Presidential Inauguration
In a memo to the Board of Edcuation on November 15, Superintendent Jerry Weast recommends not closing Montgomery County Public Schools for the Presidential Inauguration. Here is a copy of the memo:
Office of the Superintendent of Schools
MONTGOMERY COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
November 15, 2008
To: Members of the Board of Education
From: Jerry D. Weast, Superintendent of Schools
Subject: Implications of Closing Schools for the Presidential Inauguration
As you are aware, we have received numerous inquiries requesting that we close Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) for the historic Inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on January 20, 2009. 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. As we have only four contingency days built into the calendar, relinquishing one for the Inauguration will leave us with only three which could result in having to extend the calendar in the summer by one day. In addition, I am greatly concerned that many parents will not have the day off from work and thus will be presented with child care dilemmas that will cause families significant hardships. We have heard from families expressing this concern. Another important reason is that we have about 36,000 students who receive free and reduced-price meals from MCPS and thus could be forced to go without breakfast or lunch that day if we do not open schools.
It is unrealistic to believe that vast numbers of our students or staff will be able to physically attend the Inauguration because of the difficulty of obtaining tickets or to attend the parade because of the magnitude of the crowds. We also do not know what the weather will be on that day and what impact that may have on a family’s decision to attend the events downtown. Thus, I believe that the classroom provides an excellent venue from which to watch this historical event unfold.
Principals and teachers will be prepared to celebrate and hold class discussions and make certain this is a special day for all students. The Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs is developing appropriate grade-level lesson plans for teachers.
Below I have provided additional information about the significant financial and instructional implications that I have considered, especially given the difficult economic environment.
Should we use one of the four contingency days for January 20, 2009, and need more than three days for weather-related closings this winter, the day would need to be made up, resulting in a cost of approximately $600,000 (This assumes limiting the number of 10-month supporting services employees who would be called back to work on the makeup day. If all 10-month employees worked, the amount would be $970,000).
Facilities—Forty-seven facilities with Day Care will need to remain open at a cost of approximately $23,000. This is the cost of having building services staff members receive time and one-half pay in addition to holiday pay.
Facilities with scheduled ICB activities in the afternoon and evening will need to remain open at a cost of approximately $68,000. This is the cost of having building services staff members receive time and one-half pay in addition to holiday pay.
Transportation—Transportation for special education students to nonpublic placements cannot be cancelled by MCPS, resulting in a cost of $46,000. This is the cost of having bus operators, bus attendants, and transportation depot staff members receive time and one-half pay in addition to holiday pay.
Food Services—Staff will receive holiday pay without the off-setting income resulting in a revenue loss of approximately $130,000.
Security—The cost for patrolling and monitoring buildings on a holiday is $3,900.
Instructional and Extracurricular Implications
Maryland State Department of Education High School Assessment Algebra make-up examination cannot be changed, which will result in a lost opportunity for students.
The MCPS final exam schedule will need to be revised.
Practices for winter sports—basketball, wrestling, indoor track, swimming, and diving—will be cancelled.
I know that my recommendation may not be well-received by some, but I believe it is the right course of action for the district. For those families who want to take their children out of school for the celebration, the absence will be excused and the student can make up any missed work.
For the majority of our staff and students who will not be able to attend the Inauguration, schools will provide a unique educational setting to witness this historic occasion.
We have received some correspondence suggesting that the high school exam schedule should be modified. In January, there is a “testing window” for high school exams from January 16 to 23, and schools develop their own schedule within this window. Typically, high schools schedule two exams in the morning (7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. until noon) for the first three days of exams. On the fourth day, one exam is given and there is an opportunity for students to make up exams. The fifth day is set aside for make-up exams. Most schools also use the afternoon of each day in the exam schedule to allow students to make up exams.
Some high school principals are considering changing their schedule by having only one exam in the morning of January 20, 2009. This is an acceptable option. Schools will not have the option of not having any exams on January 20. I expect principals to use a decision-making process that includes stakeholders to decide the schedule according to the interests of the school community. High school students who take the day off to participate in activities on January 20, 2009, and receive an excused absence will need to utilize the existing make-up options to complete their final exams within the testing window.
If you have any questions, please call Larry Bowers, chief operating officer, at (301) 279-3626, or me.
Last edited by Howard Hartman; 11-17-2008 at 10:00 PM.
Re: Superintendent Weast Opposes Closing Schools for Presidential Inauguration
Very nice post with a very informative ton. I really appreciate the fact that you approach these topics from a stand point of knowledge and information
instead of the typical “I think” mentality that you see so much on the internet these days.
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