Whether it’s OK for kids to miss school to celebrate the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win is now up to the principal at each of Seattle’s 95 schools.
On Monday, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda said parents who want to take their kids out of school for Wednesday’s victory parade can, but their absence would be considered unexcused.
But on Tuesday, amid public pressure to excuse such absences, he softened his stance, telling principals in an email:
“I want you to have the flexibility to do what you feel is best for your school community. Under state regulation, you do have the discretion to decide if students who miss school tomorrow for the parade will be considered unexcused or excused. I will support your decision.”
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The principals were supposed to let parents know by Wednesday morning how absences would be handled, said the district’s chief communications officer, Lesley Rogers.
Pressure to cut students loose for the parade began mounting Monday morning when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at a news conference that schools should close for the event.
“Yeah, let’s shut down the darn schools,” Carroll said. “Let’s have a darn celebration — peacefully and rightfully and in great fashion — but with great music and fun and great enjoyment and creating the memory that everybody deserves.”
Then on Tuesday morning, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said at a news conference that while he understood it would be difficult for schools to close suddenly, they should grant excused absences for the parade.
By Tuesday evening an online petition started at Nathan Hale High School had gathered more than 1,000 signatures asking the district to OK parade absences.
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.
Other districts also were sorting out how to handle absences.
Several other area districts said they would excuse students with parental approval, including Northshore, Lake Washington, Bellevue and Highline.
But at least two districts — Kent and Renton — will not excuse absences.
The Renton school district’s website also said that athletes who have an unexcused absence Wednesday will not be allowed to practice or compete in sports that day.
In Seattle, Banda and the principals talked about how to handle absences at a regularly scheduled, daylong leadership meeting at district headquarters.
Rogers didn’t elaborate about what changed Banda’s mind on the issue, other than it came about as a result of that meeting and a review of state regulations about absences.
In his subsequent email to the principals, Banda cited a provision that says an absence can be excused if the parent and school principal decide it’s a “mutually agreed upon approved activity.”
By Tuesday evening, Roosevelt, Ballard, Garfield and Rainier Beach high schools were among those granting excused absences with parental approval.
A spot check of area public-school districts showed none closing for the parade.
But several area Catholic high schools will be closed Wednesday so students can attend the parade, including Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien; O’Dea, Seattle Preparatory and Bishop Blanchet in Seattle, and Archbishop Murphy in Everett.
Not everyone was on board with the idea of students missing school.
David Ronen Gluck, a third-grade teacher at K-5 STEM elementary school in West Seattle, wrote a letter to Murray and the Seahawks organization about his concerns for the instructional time that will be lost if kids skip school for the parade.
He took an informal poll and estimates that a quarter to a half of the students won’t be in class on Wednesday because they’ll be at the parade.
“Our students and their families have been asked to choose between a day at school and a day downtown celebrating the success of our local football team,” Gluck wrote.
“Granted, understanding and promoting civic pride is an integral part of educating the next generation of socially conscious citizens, but when this pride is given higher status than the educational process that will create this informed citizenry, we need to reconsider where our priorities lie.”
John Higgins: 206-464-3145 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter @jhigginsST.
Seattle Times reporter Steve Miletich contributed.