04/24/08 — No school on Memorial Day, but ...

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No school on Memorial Day, but ...

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 24, 2008 2:17 PM

Students in Wayne County Public Schools will likely have Memorial Day off after all, officials announced Wednesday.

The trade-off is students and teachers will have to make up the day by going to classes on a Saturday.

Responding to disgruntled parents and veterans over Memorial Day being a regular school day, the school board is expected to officially amend the calendar at its upcoming May 5 meeting.

Students will then have the opportunity to observe the holiday on Monday, May 24.

At the same time, the following Saturday, May 31, would be designated an early release day.

Citing tight constraints on the annual school calendar, officials had said last week that Memorial Day was considered an "optional holiday" and the district's calendar committee had chosen to use it as a regular day of classes.

The News-Argus and school officials received an outpouring of calls and e-mails expressing opposition to the holiday schedule.

Thelma Smith, school board chairwoman, said she was among those "inundated" with calls following a story in Sunday's newspaper about the issue. Some hinted that the school system was "unpatriotic," she said.

"When you think about it now, we never should have done that. But going on, our only defense was that we had a person on the committee from the base, and we took her recommendations. There's nothing else for us to do but apologize," she said.

Mrs. Smith said Wednesday that she felt it was important to take immediate action.

"I called our board members Monday morning," she said. "We gladly, immediately, made a decision to change so that they can be out on that day."

The board, including the superintendent and leadership team, were "unanimous" in the decision to move toward changing the calendar, Mrs. Smith said. The proposal will be discussed and officially voted on at the May 5 board meeting.

"What I want to say as a board member and representing the board, is that we certainly are very sensitive to the military and the base and of course we wouldn't have done anything to upset our military people," she said. "They are our pride and joy. We support them 100 percent."

With a limited number of days remaining in the current school year, she said it was challenging to find an alternate day that would do the least harm, she said.

"We do hope what we have done has been acceptable," she said. "We certainly apologize for any misperceptions about what we did."

School Superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor also cited short notice as one reason behind having to schedule classes on a Saturday.

"Had concerns been lifted about our calendar earlier in the school year, our board would have had more options in making Memorial Day a holiday for students," he said. "Now that we are at the end of the school year, the board's only option is to have students attend school on a Saturday.

"Adding a day at the end of the school year is not an option, as school ends on a Friday and graduations have already been set and invitations already paid for."

The superintendent also expressed appreciation to the district employees, who will now be called upon to give up a normally scheduled day off to make the calendar change successful for students.

He said that any events previously scheduled for Memorial Day will be rescheduled for Saturday, May 31.

Stacey Doulin, a military wife who was among those who had earlier spoken out about the situation, said she was very happy that the change had been made.

"I applaud them. I hope that this means they're going to look at it for next year," she said.

At the same time, she expressed disappointment for the teachers and staff now required to work on a Saturday.

"I do think that burden that they're placing on the teachers is unfair," she said. "I don't think there's going to be a lot of people sending their children to school that day."

Teachers, like other parents, might also have day care issues for their own children on that Saturday, Mrs. Doulin said.

As for comments about the short notice brought on by the concerns, Mrs. Doulin dismissed the notion.

"We tried making phone calls to the district office prior to the Easter break. We were waiting to hear back from the school system but we didn't. Nobody ever responded to us before this article came out," she said.

The announcement is creating a lot of buzz, both among unhappy teachers as well as parents.

Joyce Padgett, who has custody of her granddaughter, said she does not support the change.

"I just think that it's wrong. Now we're going to go to school on Saturday? Saturday happens to be my day off," she said. "Now I have got to get my child up and send her to school. ... I just don't think that's right."

Ms. Padgett questioned the district changing the calendar just because of a little pressure.

"They don't change bus routes just because they get a little heat," she said.

"They did for one person or one small group of people and now a whole lot of people could suffer because of it."