HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. — Lauren Schmidt and her brother, Christian, spent part of Memorial Day on the bike trails with their grandfather, instead of in school.
They were among the approximate 33,500 year-round students in the Wake County Public School System scheduled to be in class Monday because of a 2007 decision by the Wake County Board of Education to hold class on a national holiday.
Last week, Wake County Republican Party Chairman Claude E. Pope called on parents of year-round students to keep their children home as a protest to the school board's decision to have class on a day that should be reserved for remembrance of fallen soldiers.
"Our daughter and son-in-law decided to keep the kids home so that we could have a family day," said Lauren and Christian Schmidt's grandfather, Jim Jolin.
"They took the children out to Raleigh Cemetery and explained to them about Memorial Day," he added. "I'm surprised there's even a conflict. Memorial Day is Memorial Day."
More than 13,600 year-round school students didn't show up for class Monday, according to school district officials.
"The Wake GOP fully respects the education of our students, but students should not be forced to go to school on such an important holiday," Pope said in a statement Tuesday.
At Holly Grove Elementary School, where the U.S. flag flew at half-mast, class attendance was down about 25 percent, school officials said. Students spent part of the day learning the importance of the holiday.
Wake County school leaders said the school calendar was voted on two years ago and that the schools chose to have the Wednesday of Thanksgiving off, instead.
Traditional-calendared schools had the day off. Next year, all Wake County public school students will have off Memorial Day.
Wake County's year-round students were not the only ones in school. All students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system also were in class to make up for a snow day from March. There were Memorial Day events at schools.