05/06/08 — Board: School will be out for holiday

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Board: School will be out for holiday

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 6, 2008 1:46 PM

The school board officially approved a change to the public school calendar Monday night, making Memorial Day a holiday and the following Saturday a make-up day.

In recent weeks, the schools calendar came under fire from military families and veterans upset that Memorial Day was a regularly scheduled day of classes. School officials countered the outcry with a compromise -- May 26 would be a holiday and May 31, a Saturday, an early dismissal day.

Saturday classes were not a popular solution for many parents and teachers.

Three people turned out to speak to the board Monday, hoping their efforts might sway the vote.

Randy Foy targeted state legislators who "allowed the tourism industry to change how the school district is built." He said he understood the constraints local districts have faced trying to accommodate the state-required start and end dates, but did not favor the proposal.

"I'm opposed to changing the calendar," he said. "As a matter of principle, I feel we should leave the calendar as it is because we have all had the calendar since August. If there was a point of contention, it should have been changed then."

Citing such conflicts as families with day care issues, second jobs and previously scheduled events that will be difficult to change, Foy said the move sends the message that the desires of a few will be met, while the vast majority must adhere.

Sherry McAllister agreed, saying there will be "no educational value" to a half-day of classes on Saturday.

"This whole schedule has really been upsetting to a lot of people. We don't understand how Memorial Day got scheduled as a work day in the first place," she said.

"Teacher morale is really down. Student morale is really down. ... There are teachers who would like to speak out but are afraid to because of their jobs."

She asked the board to reconsider its decision, suggesting members pursue asking the state for a one-day waiver.

Stacey Doulin, a military wife among those who initially raised concerns of the Memorial Day scheduling, also spoke.

"As one of the original group, I felt that it was important to come and thank you for your consideration of this holiday," she said. "As a military spouse, I do believe it's important that we honor those that have gone before us."

The real issue, she said, was that Memorial Day was not even considered a holiday at the outset.

"This is a holiday that should not be considered optional," she said. "I hope that you will reconsider Memorial Day as a holiday in the future."

At the very least, she said the desire was to have such concerns heard and understood by the school officials.

"I never expected the children to be punished by having to go to school on a Saturday," she said.

School board members said they were sensitive to the situation, especially in a military town.

When put to a vote, however, Saturday classes were still on the table.

Board member George Moye proposed an amendment, asking the superintendent and board attorney to investigate "any ways or means possible to count no students absent on that day."

The board approved both the original motion and the amendment. Only board member Rick Pridgen opposed both.

It was all in vain, however.

The News-Argus was notified this morning that the schools superintendent and board attorney had researched state law and found "there's no provision that allows for a student to be absent but counted present," said Ken Derksen, public information officer for Wayne County Public Schools.

"The district understands there's going to be some conflicts having school on Saturday but we will be working with parents and if there are legitimate reasons why the student will be absent, those will be counted as excused," Derksen said.

Board member Shirley Sims called the recent dilemma a difficult one.

"Thinking about all the people coming back from Iraq, the thing is, I would hate for them to come back at a time like this and find out that we had failed to recognize a day in their honor," she said. "On behalf of all the men and women that have gone away and will be coming back right during this time that we are preparing for Memorial Day, we want them to know ... We'll look into it and if there any way we can look into giving those students credit, we'll do that."

Board Chairwoman Thelma Smith echoed the sentiment.

"We hope and pray that the community will appreciate, it's not something we do lightly up here," she said.