School's In Session, So Water Park Ends Weekday Season

On the last weekday of business, anxious children waited for the front gate to be pushed open.

"Hurry up. We're going back to school. I'm getting old," one child jokingly yelled.

Her family drove over from New Orleans to spend the day at Gulf Island Water Park.

"This is their reward for a good summer," said Chris Molaison.

The final day of the water park's weekday schedule capped off a busy second season. Larry Fontenella is the park's director of operations.

"At this stage right now, I'm happy with how it's turned out this season. It's actually gone very well," he said.

If park managers have one complaint, it's with the calendar. They'd rather not shut down on weekdays until later in the month.

"Absolutely. We'd love to stay open as long as they were coming," Fontenella said.

But because Mississippi children are back in class, and Louisiana sends it children to school next week, the water park is shutting down its slides on weekdays. Other tourist attractions are in a similar position.

It's still early August. But their family business has gone back to class. So earlier this week, the Mississippi Coast Attractions Association said it was sending a resolution to Jackson, asking lawmakers to push back the start of the school year.

Henry Arledge sees some merit to the idea.

"As far as I'm concerned, we're starting too early," the Harrison County Schools Superintendent said.

Arledge now realizes the hot summer days in early August are a danger to his students. Many of them ride in buses without air conditioning. And several schools have gymnasiums that lack an A/C unit.

"So it's a multitude of problems that need to be addressed. And to help the issue, I think starting school later would be a good idea," Arledge said.

He knows it's too late to redo the schedule this year. If Arledge makes a change next year, it will be for the comfort of his students. He says any benefit to tourist attractions would simply be a bonus.

Water park managers say Gulf Islands will be open on weekends from now through the middle of September.