Whether it's going to parades or a Fat Tuesday party many, if not most here, make it a late night on Mardi Gras. So, school officials say parental preference and high absenteeism are among the reasons Calcasieu Public Schools are out on Ash Wednesday.
St. John Elementary kindergarten student Jacob Dawson says, "I like it because we get to stay out of school four days. Me and my mama and daddy are going to try to catch beads."
Yep, Mardi Gras is fun for all ages and can mean sleepy little ones at school the next day. Here at St. John Elementary the PTO president Kendrea Terrell says most parents favor having the Wednesday after Mardi Gras off school. "All of the parades are Tuesday night late and by the time we get home it's 9, 9:30 which is past their bedtimes. So, it's a struggle getting to school on the Wednesday. So, we appreciate the day for recovery before they have to go back."
Calcasieu School Board Member Jim Schooler says a survey was done indicating parents prefer the day off. He says absenteeism the day after Mardi Gras has been a problem. "The amount of students that were absent and because of requests from parents we decided that we would add Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, as a holiday too." He says the survey was done by Leo Miller who has now retired.
No doubt, there are working parents for whom it's an inconvenience. But parents we spoke to, who were picking up kids at 3 p.m. Friday, were all in favor of day off. Said parent Kelly Clark. "It shows parents that the school board does listen and we're very appreciative that they gave us a voice and listened to what we liked and what worked for us and they were actually able to change policy based on our opinion." Parent Elaine Huber agreed. "I actually love it. It gives the ones that go to church on Wednesday and opportunity to go. Vacation, a lot of people take vacations during that time. It gives that extra day to go out of town."
Some schools offer extended care on some holidays but it varies school by school.
Calcasieu School Board President R.L. Webb says the Wednesday holiday is not engraved in stone. He says which days are holidays may vary from year to year, depending on test schedules and bad weather days. That's because they have to make sure children are in school at least 182 days each year.
Students in Cameron and Jeff Davis Parishes are also off school on Wednesday. But they do have school in Allen, Beauregard and Vernon Parishes on Ash Wednesday.