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Inaugural Pilgrims, Lodging Squeeze

By Alyson Klein — January 06, 2009 1 min read

School groups will have a chance to see history unfold in person as Barack Obama is sworn in as president on Jan. 20—though finding a place to stay in Washington may prove as elusive as a clear view of the inauguration.

Typically, just part of the National Mall is used for the swearing-in ceremony, said Brent Colburn, a spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. But in anticipation of a record crowd wanting to celebrate the inauguration of the nation’s first African-American president, the entire mall will be opened up to the general public this year.

Housing is another matter. Take, for example, the South Cobb High School Blue Eagle Marching Band, from Austell, Ga., which will be performing in the inaugural parade and which booked its hotel before Mr. Obama was even elected.

After the election, the band was told it could no longer have the rooms at the rate originally offered, said Zachary Codgill, the band’s director. They found other affordable lodging.

Some 35 high school groups are among about 70 that have been asked so far to take part in the inaugural parade, and others may yet be invited.

Some school groups won’t have much of a trek, such as the Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High marching band, from Washington. But others are coming from much farther away, including students from President-elect Obama’s alma mater, the private Punahou School in Honolulu. The school’s marching band and Junior ROTC will perform in the parade.

Students in JROTC at Michelle Obama’s school—Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago—have also been invited to take part.

And school groups that can’t make the trip to Washington may have another way of joining in the festivities. The inaugural committee is hoping to encourage communities around the country to take part in service activities on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day before the inauguration. Mr. Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be working on service projects throughout Washington.

“It would be a great way for school groups who can’t attend the inauguration to get involved,” Mr. Colburn said.

A version of this article appeared in the January 07, 2009 edition of Education Week

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