Seattle Public Schools will not close school, dismiss classes early or even grant excused absences for parents who withdraw their children to attend the Seahawks Super Bowl victory parade on Wednesday.
The district issued a written statement from Superintendent José Banda explaining the decision late Monday afternoon.
“Parents who wish to take their students out of school can, but per state regulation, it will be treated as an unexcused absence,” Banda said. “While we support the team, academics must come first, and it’s important not to lose a day in the classroom.”
The parade will start at 11 a.m. on Fourth Avenue, south of Denny Way, and will continue along Fourth, arriving at CenturyLink Field around 1:30 p.m.
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Some Catholic high schools will close for the event, but a spot check of area public-school districts showed none closing for the day. Like Seattle, Kent schools are not excusing absences if parents take their kids out for the parade, but Highline, Northshore and Lake Washington will excuse absences if parents give their permission.
On Monday, the Federal Way school district said it would not excuse absenses but on Tuesday a district spokeswoman said that was not the case — that the district does in fact have flexibility to excuse tudents who attend the parade.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday at a news conference that schools should shut down Wednesday so children can join the celebration.
“Heck, yeah, they should,” Carroll said in response to a question about whether schools should close for the parade. “There’s a big education happening on Wednesday. They should all show up. I’m thrilled about what’s coming up. I feel so humbled by the fact that we get to bring this championship back to them, and it’s their championship. In my mind it goes to the kids.”
Instead, the Seattle district is encouraging students and staff to show support for the Seahawks at school by wearing blue.
“We know this is a historical event for our community, and we also know that for many of our students, their school community is a place where they will celebrate and come together to talk about pride, sportsmanship and teamwork,” Banda’s statement said.
Closing school with little notice to parents could create a lot of problems, assuming it would be allowed under labor contracts and other rules and regulations, said Pegi McEvoy, assistant superintendent for operations.
She said many kids depend on the district’s free and reduced-price lunches for their daily meals. A sudden cancellation might also cause hardship for parents who can’t take time off work to care for them.
Seattle Public Schools didn’t close the last time the city celebrated a world championship — the 1979 NBA victory parade for the Seattle SuperSonics basketball team, which drew a crowd of about 300,000, according to Seattle Times coverage of the event.
A Seattle School District spokesman at the time said that between a quarter to a third of the students in seventh through 12th grade were absent that day (between 5,000 and 8,000) and most of them had permission slips from their parents.
“Most secondary-school officials contacted said students with permission slips were considered excused absentees,” according The Times report.
For Wednesday’s parade, some districts such as Northshore in the Bothell area will grant excused absences if parents want to withdraw their children to attend the parade.
“If a parent chose to keep their kid out on Wednesday to attend the Seahawk rally, we would excuse that absence, although it is a normal school day in Northshore,” said the district’s communications director, Leanna Albrecht.
Highline school officials say that as long as parents or guardians give the schools a written notice within 24 hours, the absence will be excused.
State law defines 11 valid excuses for being absent from school, and attending the home team’s Super Bowl victory parade isn’t on the list. But the Lake Washington School District is turning to excuse No. 11, which says that an absence can be excused if the parent and school principal decide it’s a “mutually agreed upon approved activity.”
“There’s a little wiggle room,” said district communications director, Kathryn Reith. “Principals may agree for students who are in good academic standing and are normally in school, and they may have different thoughts about students who are at risk of being truants.”
Students at some Catholic high schools will get the day to cheer the Seahawks.
O’Dea High School and Seattle Prep in Seattle will be closed for the parade.
“We got a couple of emails form alums who remembered the school all walking down together in the 1970s after the Sonics won,” said Jen Russell, Seattle Prep’s communications director. “They left classes and all walked down as a full school, so we looked at that as some precedent for it.”
Memories of the 1979 SuperSonics also influenced the decision to close Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien for the parade.
“I actually got to attend the ’79 parade myself,” said school President Michael Prato, who was in his fourth year of teaching at a different school.
He said he met Monday morning with other officials and figured out a way to juggle the schedule so they could cancel classes on Wednesday. He called some parents to make sure there wouldn’t be too many problems, and they agreed it was a good idea. He announced it on the intercom just before lunch.
Prato said you would have “thought I was king for the day.”
“It’s a terrific memory for families,” he said. “The families are the big thing. They’re all going together.”
John Higgins: 206-464-3145 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter @jhigginsST. News researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed t this report.