Official Seeks to Make Inauguration Day a Holiday

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Montgomery County school board member is offering a resolution to declare Inauguration Day a holiday in Maryland's largest school system, against the recommendation of Superintendent Jerry D. Weast.

More than 3,000 people have signed an online petition asking Weast to give students and teachers the day off, and the topic has burned up parent-teacher e-mail lists. Montgomery is one of a few large school systems in the Washington area that plan to hold classes when Barack Obama is sworn in as president Jan. 20.

Students in the District and in Fairfax, Prince George's, Loudoun and Arlington counties, among others, will be off, as will employees in most of those systems. School boards in Loudoun and Prince George's altered their calendars last week to allow the holiday. Charles County's school board voted Tuesday to give students the day off.

Montgomery school board member Christopher S. Barclay (Silver Spring) introduced a resolution Tuesday to declare a holiday, noting that the inauguration of the first African American president will be "unlike any event that we are likely to witness again in our lifetimes."

The board will consider the resolution Dec. 9. Board President Nancy Navarro (Northeastern County) said she thinks the measure has majority support on the eight-person board.

"I think that it is an issue that needed to be brought to the board and needed to be voted on," Barclay said.

Weast recommended last week that schools remain open on Inauguration Day, citing the limited number of "contingency" days -- four -- built into the calendar for snow or other reasons. He also said that closing schools would create child-care problems for working parents. School board members said they had received a number of calls from parents urging them not to call off school.

"The almanac says it's going to be a bad winter. That's what worries me," Weast said. But, he said, "we do what our board tells us to do. They set the calendar."

Board members have heard tidings of mass absences. Judy Docca (Gaithersburg), who favors a holiday, said she had heard that 65 employees at one school had requested leave.

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