THE Department of Education has criticised Council’s decision to reinstate a part half-day public holiday for the Armidale Cup.
Armidale public schools were forced to close at 12pm on Monday.
And with no extra bus services, children were left to find their own way home.
The move has caused confusion among students and disrupted learning programs according to the department.
Edwards Coaches operations manager James Cross said the company had offered to run the school buses at midday at no extra cost but were refused by Transport NSW.
“It really shouldn’t have been a holiday, it’s upset everything,” he said.
“Having a gambling day for a public holiday doesn’t say much for children.”
Armidale Jockey Club secretary Jim Dedes doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s more of a celebration for Armidale – it’s just one big event where everyone can get together and socialise,” he said.
Despite the rain, punters headed to the racecourse in droves.
”We had a massive turn out,” Mr Dedes said.
”It was more than double what we had last year.
”Each year without the holiday, our crowds were just getting smaller and smaller.
“In our submission [to Council] we noted that our crowds had dropped from nearly 3000 people down to under a thousand last year, it wasn’t very well patronised in the last couple of years.”
Mr Dedes also said the event was a great boost for the local community and brought lots of people into the city.
“It was just a terrific day, we just thank the council for seeing the light and giving us the approval for the half-day holiday.”
However, schools were not alone in criticising the holiday.
Many local businesses were less than impressed with the disruption, shutting their doors for the afternoon.
Cafe 195 manager Vicki Kembery closed her business early as the cost of paying public holiday rates was too high.
“The staff are on casual rates so we almost have to triple that,” she said.
Courthouse Coffee also close each year because of low foot-traffic in the mall.
Armidale Regional Council administrator Ian Tiley said last year the holiday would impact on some services, but the majority of people were in favour of the move.