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Ohio School District Holds Classes on Memorial Day, Angering Vets and Parents

Memorial Day in this Butler County city will be one to remember - but not in the way some veterans and parents would like.

Of all the 614 public school systems in Ohio, only the 10,100-student Fairfield schools will hold classes on the national holiday. One school in the Wyoming district - Hilltop Elementary - also will be in session.

The Fairfield district is using Monday's holiday to make up the last of nine class days lost due to snow closings and September's wind storm. State officials in Ohio and Kentucky cannot recall the last time an entire public school district held classes on Memorial Day.

Fairfield resident and Vietnam War veteran Rick Rouse said the plan is "a slap in the face of all veterans."

The disabled Marine has decorated his yard and his van with large protest signs criticizing school officials. When he drives the van, Rouse claims many motorists honk and give him thumbs-up in support.

The impact of the board's March decision is far-reaching.

With thousands of children required to attend classes, the city cancelled its annual Memorial Day parade for the first time in memory. The event will be replaced with a much smaller "remembrance program" at a local park.

Many family trips and outings were affected - including traditional trips to cemeteries to visit the graves of relatives who served.

"It annoys me. The respect for veterans is lacking," said parent Mike Williamson. "I don't see why an act of nature should determine what a school system is going to do on a national holiday."

Ron Wolke says he is baffled by the district's decision.

"I don't like the idea at all. It's a national holiday," he said. "Is the schools' summer vacation so important that we have to send our kids to school on Memorial Day?"

But school officials contend that giving up the holiday was the best of the bad options.

"There were no ideal choices," said Board of Education President Jerome Kearns. "Memorial Day was necessary so that our seniors could complete their attendance requirements before their graduation."

June 5 is the last day for seniors, who graduate on June 7, and the last day for all other students is June 10.

Without the Memorial Day classes, the district would have had to ask seniors to return to school for one day after their graduation ceremony. Changing the graduation date would have brought even more complications.

The board also was concerned that adding another day in June would have been a "wasted day" with some students absent to depart on long-planned vacations and the rest distracted by a summer "mind set."

A similar situation occurred in the Wyoming school district, but only one building was affected.

Hilltop Elementary will hold classes Monday for its 270 students because it was closed longer by September's wind storm than the district's other schools.

The Fairfield schools planned several Memorial Day ceremonies, in-school parades, military guest speakers and other activities to honor veterans and teach about the day's significance.

"I believe we can honor the memories of those who died in service to their country, even while children are in school," said Kearns.

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