Veterans Day may be axed as school holiday

Students in Brevard County could lose their Veterans Day holiday next year, but get a whole week off for Thanksgiving under a new calendar proposed by the district.

Christine Moore, director of professional learning and development for Brevard Public Schools, said the proposed changes to the school calendar were formulated by a committee including district-level employees, teachers and administrators, taking into account parent input captured via a survey.

Moore told board members that more than 11,000 households responded to the survey regarding the school calendar, most of them parents. More than 2,000 of them offered individual comments. “The number one comment that was received across holiday trends was that they want the whole week of Thanksgiving off,” Moore said.

School Board members, however, mostly rejected that idea. Board member Matt Susin and others suggested that a three-day holiday for Thanksgiving is sufficient, and that the board should instead create at least one more teacher planning day during the first semester. That day would be a day off for students.

Moore presented School Board members with several calendar options. Other proposed changes included a three-week Christmas break, starting school on a Friday, and ensuring spring break takes place in March. Board members also rejected the idea of the longer Christmas break, saying some of those days could also be used for teacher planning.

For some parents, Brevard’s Christmas break is already too long on the back end. Where most adults remember their school resuming on Jan. 2 or Jan. 3, Brevard students get a full week off after New Year’s Day – a time when working parents are back on the job. Unlike summer and spring break, there are few camps or other childcare opportunities the first week of January. And even if there were, families are financially tapped out after holiday travel and gift giving.

Of the proposed changes, nixing the Veterans Day holiday was the least contentious, but caused the most discussion.

“I am definitely a proponent of Veterans Day being a school day,” board member Andy Ziegler said. “We are a veteran, military-rich and proud community. I know very well from having a child that on that day off for Veterans Day they sleep in late, they get up, they don’t necessarily know why they have the day off. They’re just glad that they have the day off. I don’t think that does any justice to our military heroes, especially in this community.”

He suggested district-wide Veterans Day programs in school, instead of a holiday. “What better way to teach the history and respect (of) our military heroes than to have a full day all across Brevard County and have veterans in our schools,” Ziegler said. “I know we have enough veterans in Brevard County to have a massive impact on our students all in one day.”

Board member Tina Descovich said she’d like to see district-wide Veterans Day programs as well, and suggested the board take the lead on making that happen. But she also supported the idea of a week-long Thanksgiving break. Having both, she said, would be a “win-win.”

One change that is all-but-definite is early-dismissal days moving from Wednesdays to Fridays come August. Early-dismissal Wednesdays were originally established to give teachers time for professional development training or lesson planning. How much training and planning will happen on Fridays is unclear, as the School Board has agreed to allow teachers to use earned comp time on Friday early-dismissal days.

Board members also discussed school start and end dates, but Moore said there’s little wiggle room on those days due to state laws that dictate schools start no earlier than Aug. 10, and that most standardized testing be done during a four-week window starting on May 1.

Moore is expected to bring a final set of recommendations back to the board for a vote in January.

Story by: Jan Wesner Childs, correspondent

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