School & District Management

Super Bowl Districts Face Super-Sized Call: Should They Cancel Class for a Victory Parade?

By Evie Blad — February 08, 2024 5 min read
Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill celebrates with fans during a victory celebration and parade in Kansas City, Mo., on Feb. 15, 2023, following the Chiefs' win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL Super Bowl 57 football game.
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[Editors’ note: This story was reported by a “completely unbiased” Kansas City fan. But it was edited by a ‘49ers fan, and by a second editor, who thinks the Super Bowl is mainly a good excuse for eating too many potato chips.]

If the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl on Sunday, plenty of students there will be free to catch the red confetti when a victory parade winds through the city’s downtown neighborhoods a few days later.

The Kansas City, Mo., district and several neighboring school systems have already announced plans to close schools if there is a victory celebration Wednesday—just as many did when the team won the big game in 2020 and 2023. Across the state line, in Kansas City, Kan., schools have not yet made an announcement about whether they would cancel for a parade, as they did last year.

Perhaps not wanting to risk bad luck, San Francisco schools have not said either way how they would handle a possible 49ers win. The school system has already planned a day off Friday for Lunar New Year celebrations.

The Super Bowl decision is a super-sized example of a tension district administrators face: Amid surging rates of chronic absenteeism, is it appropriate to call off classes for significant community events? If schools insist on being in session, will most students skip out anyway?

Canceling school “once for a very rare occasion of civic celebration, I don’t think that’s a big deal,” said Robert Balfanz, the director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, a research center that studies school attendance and student engagement. “I don’t think we can scold our way to better attendance.”

Balfanz is among the researchers who have sounded the alarm about climbing rates of chronic absenteeism, which is generally defined as missing at least 10 percent of school days, following the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Advocacy groups have encouraged educators to “rebuild a culture of attendance” by tracking data and sending consistent messaging to parents and students about the importance of coming to class.

Planning around rare, significant community events could be a part of those efforts if most students—and many teachers—are expected to be no-shows, educators said in interviews and responses to a social media query.

“Our district canceled the last two times this has happened (as well as the Royals’ [2015 World Series victory] parade),” suburban Kansas City teacher Susan H., who is clearly not tired of winning, wrote in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Not enough staff available (and so many students gone anyway). Better to cancel and make up.”

Excited students and tough calls

“We want to give our families and staff ample time to prepare in case of a victory,” the Kansas City, Mo., district wrote in a notice to families about possible closures next week, shockingly unconcerned that they could negatively affect the game’s outcome by making the call early.

Traffic from the parade would also make it difficult to conduct normal bus routes, the district noted.

In San Francisco, an area with more college and professional sports teams than Kansas City, a football victory might be less of a cause for universal celebration among students, leading to fewer absences on parade day. In another large city with plenty of sports teams—and winning records, when the Los Angeles Rams prepared to play in the 2022 Super Bowl, local outlet LAist asked: “Why Would LA Cancel School After A Sports Championship? We Win Them All The Time.”

Kansas City-area districts, though, take game week seriously. Students throughout the region celebrated “Mahomes Monday” Feb. 5, wearing No. 15 jerseys like Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The next day, they celebrated “Travis and Taylor Tuesday,” in honor of Taylor Swift and her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

I don’t think we can scold our way to better attendance.

Administrators all over the United States have made similar game-time cancellation decisions after big local sporting wins or other locally significant events.

Districts in Green Bay, Wis., received a state waiver to start the 2024-25 school year early, allowing them to cancel school when the city hosts the NFL draft in April 2025, the Green Bay Post Gazette reported. Green Bay is the smallest metropolitan area with an NFL team, and the effects of traffic and a swell of visitors are expected to complicate school operations more than they would in larger urban areas, the paper reported.

Some Philadelphia parents protested when schools in the region closed for a day in 2018 after the Eagles won their first Superbowl victory, WHYY reported.

“Very selfish in my opinion. Some of us don’t have the flexibility to call out of work ‘because the Eagles won,’” the mother of a student at a Newark, Del., charter school said at the time.

Still others in Philadelphia—known for greasing telephone poles to keep overly enthusiastic fans from climbing them in celebration—praised the move.

“I’m taking my kids whether there’s school or not. And I’m a teacher,” Eric P., an Eagles fan, replied on X when asked about a hypothetical Super Bowl win.

Planning around low-attendance days

Balfanz said he’s heard anecdotes from district leaders that parents have gotten more lax about attendance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, even taking students out for vacation midweek, but there is no data to explore the extent of such claims.

Districts have responded to concerns about shifting family attitudes through messaging campaigns about the importance of “school every day” and targeted efforts, like text updates to parents about their children’s absence rates.

Some leaders have attempted to work with parents on mid-term vacations instead of fighting against them. The Pasco County, Fla., school board voted in December to add three “mini-break” four-day weekends to the district’s 2024-25 calendar, encouraging families to take trips then instead of missing instructional time.

In a similar way, school systems might make a call to cancel classes after the Kentucky Derby or a Stanley Cup win, Balfanz said.

“It’s about offsetting costs and benefits,” Balfanz said.

Missing “one day out of 180, one time in your school career, is not going to change things,” he said, while acknowledging that some parents and educators might disagree.

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