City schools to close for Obama's inauguration

December 11, 2008|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,

Baltimore schools will close Jan. 20 to recognize the historic significance of President-elect Barack Obama's swearing-in as the first African-American president of the United States, and members of the city school board encouraged parents and guardians to spend the day with their children.

The board voted Tuesday night to approve the day off so that people may watch the event on television or travel to Washington. No other school system in the metropolitan area is planning to close, but several near Washington will do so, including Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles and St. Mary's counties.

In Baltimore, a majority-black school district, the inauguration has added significance. Kathleen Lucot, a history teacher at Doris M. Johnson High School, wrote in a letter to the editor of The Baltimore Sun that "no event in the memory of any of my colleagues has ever sparked such enthusiasm from our students."

Lucot was among those who suggested closing for the day. Leaders of the city's teachers and administrators unions also made appeals at the board meeting. Marietta English, co-president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, said she planned to take her children and grandchildren to Washington, whether they had the day off or not.

Some schools were previously scheduled to administer midterm exams that day.

In a statement yesterday, the city school system referred to the "historic significance" of Obama's inauguration as well as "anticipated difficulties in maintaining adequate staffing and student attendance." The system said the day would be made up at the end of the year, which will be extended until June 10.

The system will provide optional lesson plans leading up to Inauguration Day and will allow principals to open buildings for civic celebrations.

In Howard County, school system officials said they've been inundated with questions about possible absences. Students may arrange an excused absence with the principal in advance. Howard high schools are planning to go ahead with midterms Jan. 20; absentees will be expected to make up the tests by the end of the week.

Carroll County's school system said it would treat requests like any other excused absence. Anne Arundel County considered closing but decided to remain open on Inauguration Day. Baltimore County officials said yesterday there are no plans to cancel school Jan. 20.

Baltimore Sun reporters John-John Williams IV, Joe Burris, Arin Gencer and Nicole Fuller contributed to this article.

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