Somerset —School on Memorial Day. It’s not a combination of words that anyone normally wants to hear. Yet it’s the situation which Pulaski County Schools faced on Monday, as many offices around Somerset closed, but county classrooms stayed open. A look at social media could turn up local parents unhappy about the decision by the county school district. “Can't say that I'm very happy about the fact that school is in session today,” posted Facebook user Wesley Finley on Monday. “... I'm sure everyone has good reason for doing what they did but today is a special day and should be treated as such!” Many parents elected not even to have their children attend school. In fact, school attendance was at 77 percent on Monday — 18 points down from the average of 95 percent per day. For those looking for someone or something to blame, try the weather. The snow, icy winter that descended upon not only south-central Kentucky but the entire nation this past winter forced Pulaski County to miss a dozen days of instruction, which had to be made up. Pulaski was actually in relatively good shape, as some school systems in Kentucky missed as many as 30-plus days because of the weather; consequently, Pulaski certainly isn’t the only school system in the state that was session on Monday. But according to Pulaski Superintendent Steve Butcher, it was an unpleasant decision that simply had to be made. “The big reason we went to school (Monday) was that we had five days left,” he said. “If we did, we’d have to go next Monday.” That’s not only sliding one day of school over into an otherwise empty week, it would also necessitate pushing back graduations to the first weekend in June. As it is, Southwestern High School’s graduation will be on Friday, May 30, and Pulaski County High School’s on Saturday, May 31. That’s approximately 540 graduating seniors who would be affected, said Butcher. “We’ve got kids going to colleges, teachers going to grad school,” he said. “We have about 61 people retiring from the school district. If we don’t finish school by the end of May, they kind of get penalized on their retirement (benefits). Then a lot of parents want to go on vacation the first week in June, and some of those parents had kids graduating. It would throw a kink into (their plans) “We have to look at the overall good, what’s best for parents, teachers, and kids,” he added. “There were no other options. We can’t go on Election Day. We can’t go on Saturday. Our only option was to go (Memorial Day) or next Monday.” Moreover, Butcher noted, even if school had been held over into the first week of June, it’s likely attendance would have been low that day too. “People would have kept kids home because what’s the use of going one day?” he asked rhetorically. He said that the low attendance didn’t surprise him; however, he did “get more emails from people supporting the fact that we went today than negative” calls and responses. “You’ve got naysayers who don’t support what you do, but that’s part of life when you’re making decisions for lots of people,” he said. Butcher did talk to principals about having teachers take the opportunity to discuss Memorial Day — the national holiday set aside for remembering America’s men and women in military service who have passed away — and its significance with their students. “There’s probably going to be some kids learn something about Memorial Day that they wouldn’t get at home,” said Butcher. Ultimately, though, the decision came down to lettings families and faculty get out of school before June — a luxury some other school systems won’t have after the brutal winter of 2014. “I’m not happy about it, I’m not happy that we had to go this day,” said Butcher, “but when you make decisions, sometimes there aren’t any good decisions. You have to make the best decision possible.” Chris Harris is a staff writer for the Commonwealth Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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