Longtime Cubs radio play-by-play announced Pat Hughes read the tea leaves when he asked the masses packing Grant Park Friday: “Did anybody go to work today? Did anybody go to school?”
And when the hundreds of thousands yelled out “no,” he assured them, “No worries, because your teachers and your bosses are all here too!”
Playing hooky for “Cubs fever” happened all over the Chicago area.
Arlington Heights Cubs fan Sean Ryan took three of his children out of their schools in District 214 on Friday after hearing that the district was only expecting about 40 percent of teachers to show up for work. His other son and daughter attend a Catholic high school, and told him they would have to go to class.
“That’s what they said, but I’m sure they’re here,” Ryan said as he stood on the sodden grass at Grant Park after the rally with daughter, Grace, 16, and sons Colin, 10, and Liam, 14.
“This is something that only happens once every 108 years, maybe,” Ryan joked. “It was going to be a study-hall day. They’ll learn more out here.”
In reality, one in five staffers called out, according to Erin Brooks, a spokeswoman for High School District 214. As of midday, one in four students also had not shown up at to school, she said.
The ones who got mom or dad to call got excused, as if they were sick, she said.
“We understand it is a parental choice to participate in this once-in-a-century event,” Brooks said. “This is a historical day that certainly has resulted in diminished school attendance throughout the Chicago area.”
The staff have personal days to use when they want, she said.
It was worse at Oak Park-River Forest High School, which was down at least 1,000 students out of about 3,300.
“We had a thousand voicemails on the Attendance office line, roughly a third of the student body,” spokeswoman Karin Sullivan said. “Lines to the Attendance office were out the door. We had to pull an already skeleton staff to go down and help, while other staffers pulled voicemails from their offices.”
At Oak Park’s eight elementary schools, more than twice as many kids were absent than usual, said Chris Jasculca of Elementary School District 97.
“They are not all Cubs-related absences, but approximately 737 of our 6144 students (12 percent) are out today,” Jasculca said. Typically, the schools are down 20 to 30 a building, he said.
CPS didn’t have to worry about the “blue flu” only because the district had previously planned a day off for students for school improvement day, so the 300,000-plus kids in district-run schools didn’t have to call out with Cubs fever. Noble charter schools, home to another 11,000 students, also were off for report card pickup day, and some Chicago International Charter Schools had cancelled classes for teacher training.
St. Rita High School, located in the heart of White Sox territory on the South Side, announced at the end of the day Thursday that classes would not be held Friday in honor of the Cubs’ parade and rally, according to a teacher.
St. Ignatius College Prep also notified teachers and parents Thursday that no classes would be held the day of the parade and rally.
“Our students travel from all over the city and suburbs,” Dean of Students Sean O’Connor said in an email Friday evening. “With many of our students using public transportation, we anticipated that the parade may cause some travel issues.”
Michelle Fregoso, of Naperville Community Unit School District 203, said: “We have experienced higher than normal absences, but they are not all a result of the Cubs game. For example, students and staff are out due to the cross country state meet. And, of course, there certainly were other absences preplanned unrelated to the Cubs.”
At the K-12 School District U-46 in Elgin, 87 percent of students showed up Friday, down from the usual 94 percent. The losses were “mostly down at the high school level,” spokeswoman Mary Fergus said.
“We had about a 12 percent absence of teachers/paraprofessionals today but we were able to cover the majority of classes with our world champion substitute teachers and other teachers and staff members.”