There’s no school Monday at Centre County-area public school districts.
You might be thinking, is that because of a holiday?
But it might as well be.
It’s the opening day of rifle deer hunting season — a tradition Centre County families have participated in for decades.
And it’s an annual practice for schools to make that a “vacation day,” according to some school district calendars.
In fact, Penns Valley Area athletic director and district spokesman Nate Althouse said, “I almost got lynched for scheduling basketball practice during the daylight hours on the first day of deer (hunting) season my first year as basketball coach back in the ’90s.”
Of course he was kidding about being lynched but proved the point that hunting is a staple activity in the community.
“Hunting is a very important part of our culture here in the valley and we try to create our schedule to accommodate those for whom hunting is a tradition,” Althouse said. “I don’t know what percent are hunters, but I believe there is a statistically significant relationship between the absence rate and the first day of deer season that falls on a school day.”
“The district gives this day (off) because, yes, many students would be absent from school that day due to the opening day of deer season,” Bellefonte Area High School Vice Principal Dan Park said. “Also, we have a number of faculty members who participate in hunting who would be absent, as well.”
Park said more than 50 percent of the Bellefonte Area student population are hunters or participate in hunting activities.
At Bald Eagle Middle and Senior High School alone, about 35 percent of the student body hunts, said district spokeswoman Rose Hoover.
“As far back as anyone can remember, BEA has always recognized this day as one where parents and grandparents can spend quality hours with their children and grandchildren,” Hoover said. “Since about 2002, the second day of hunting season has also been either an Act 80 or in-service day — no school for students, but staff must attend.”
Last year, the second day of hunting season was scheduled as a snow make-up day.
“By and large, our percentage of student attendance is excellent — in the high 90s,” Hoover said. “Our school district is very rural and it is a tradition for many families in our district to hunt together and spend time together, especially on the first day of hunting season. We realize this is a time for bonding for families and extended families, a tradition passed on from one generation to the next, and it’s a learning experience for our students, as well.”
Hoover said that having the Monday after Thanksgiving scheduled as a vacation day also allows BEA families who visit out-of-town friends and relatives during the Thanksgiving holiday to have one extra day for travel.
While State College Area has off on Monday, as well, administration said it’s not necessarily because of hunting season.
District spokesman Chris Rosenblum said the idea that the school has off because many students wouldn’t be present anyway is a “myth.”
The CDT also reached out to Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District that did not respond.