[VIDEO] The Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board held a hearing Tuesday on whether it should request a waiver from the state so it could hold classes on Columbus Day.

The district’s calendar committee recommended the change to reduce fragmentation of the school year. The shift would permit taking a different day off instead and would not change the number of days in the school year.

Rhonda Present, a District 65 parent and head of the working parents advocacy group ParentsWork.org spoke in favor of the change.

But Dorothy Millard, head of the district’s teachers union, said teachers surveyed were not in favor of holiday waivers.

Millard said she didn’t understand why the board was pursuing the issue, which she said would create “controvery and divisiveness among teachers, parents and the community.”

The board is scheduled to take action on the Columbus Day proposal at its next meeting, on Monday, March 16.

Meeting video courtesy of the Evanston Community Media Center.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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9 Comments

  1. why not Colombus Day?
    If there will be an additional day off, why not Colombus Day when at least some of the parents are off work? Why is everything such a battle?

    1. Clarification of “additional” day off
      In an attempt to reduce the number of interrupted and/or partial weeks of instruction, members of the calendar committee sought a “waiver” to remove one holiday. Columbus Day was not the only holiday discussed–but was chosen primarily based on its place in the calendar. In order to keep the number of instruction/teacher work days in line with the current contract, in exchange, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving would be taken as an additional day off (a net “wash” if you will).

      The end result is fewer inconsistent, interrupted weeks of instruction for students, with no placement of additional hardship or burden upon the teachers.

      1. Thanks for Clarifying
        Thank you, Jason, for clarifying this issue. Dorothy Millard’s statement was misleading because she stated that teachers were opposed to holiday waivers but that they also wanted the day before Thanksgiving off. They can’t have both – it’s one or the other.

    2. Who has Columbus Day off?
      I have never worked anywhere I had Columbus Day off. Or Pulaski day. Or Veteran’s Day or Martin Luther King Day or Good Friday or Yom Kippur for that matter. Add in all the conference days and half-days and if I were to take off work every time my children were out of school I would exhaust my allotted vacation time without actually getting time to take a vacation with them! Add in spring break, winter break, the gap between when camps end and school begins, etc., and I’d be taking triple my allotment.

      I would exchange one of these holidays for the extra day at Thanksgiving because things slow down at work that week while many of my co-workers and clients extend their holiday breaks. And if I wanted to travel with my family, I could take that extra day to do it.

      I believe the reason Columbus Day was chosen is because there are already several other days off around the same time (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, fall conferences, Veteran’s Day).

  2. The school calendar is out of touch with reality
    The number of days that our children are not able to go to school is unacceptable. The calendar, hence their routine, is interrupted constantly. It is time to change this.

    I view it astonishing that the head of the teacher’s union (presumably a teacher herself) would find it surprising that “the board was pursuing the issue”. This is a remarkable comment! It doesn’t take a degree in education to understand that children need consistency of the education more than they need a day off. We must change this out-dated thinking if we are going to progress. It is just unnecessary, disruptive and of absolutely no value to our students to celebrate this (and similar) holidays by missing school. Isn’t this an educational opportunity? Does this decision (to keep the children away from the opportunity to attend school) ADD any value to education? I hope that the District 65 School Board will be asking themselves this question.

    The bottom line is- and I don’t think any study would refute this – that our kids deserve more consistent time in school and they need more time in school. We are responsible for preparing them for the next century – and it’s a tall order that’s getting taller everyday. There is no time to waste while we debate the obvious.

    1. Educational Opportunity
      Every moment of a child’s life is potentially an “educational opportunity.” Just because your children are not in school does not mean they have to miss out on that opportunity. Look at the day with your children as a chance to teach them about something important to you. Bring them to work, take them to the museum. Create a lesson plan that gives them the opportunity to see things from your perspective. To take the position that kids should not have extra days off from the rigor and structure of their school is just as “out-dated” as the school calendar. Would you prefer school to be 7 days per week? 8-5pm? Year round? Where would you draw the line? Before you answer, consider this: If you are relying upon SCHOOL to be the only means of preparing children for the next century, maybe you should provide yourself with that degree in education and reevaluate your own “reality” before being so critical.

  3. I fail to understand why
    I fail to understand why Columbus day was chosen… Most people do not know who Pulaski was! This proposal is based solely on convenience due to the time of year Columbus Day falls upon. Seems like a pretty shallow reason to nix a holiday.

  4. School Holidaze!!
    Why do we take Pulaski Day off from School? This seems to me to be a wasted day that could be used for the Thanksgiving Holiday or other long weekend break. No one celebrates it or even knows why we have it. It’s unique to Chicago and creates a unique problem by having it.

  5. “ParentsWork.org”? Sounds like “ParentsWithNannies” to me
    Working parents are already struggling with multiple days off (not to mention incredibly inconvenient start times). The parents who will cannot take additional vacation to stay home with the kids are probably the same ones who can least afford the extra day of day care. At least on Columbus Day, we would have the opportunity to spend the time out of school WITH our kids!

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