Is it better for Brainerd students to stay in school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and honor the fallen civil rights leader in class or to be sitting at home on the federal holiday?
That's a question Brainerd School Board Curriculum Committee members mulled over Wednesday as school staff are attempting to create a draft school calendar for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years.
Deb Lechner, director of teaching and learning, asked board members for their thoughts. She said the issue came up after a concerned parent wrote an Open Forum letter in the Dispatch that criticized the district for having school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. She gave examples of classroom lessons and activities students in kindergarten through 12th-grade participate in to honor and learn more about King. She said there are few, if any, community events that honor King on the federal holiday so students may learn more about him and the civil rights movement in school.
Board chair Ruth Nelson agreed.
"I like being in session on Martin Luther King Jr. Day," said Nelson.
"We are heading toward greater diversity in our community," said board member Kent Montgomery. "We don't have community events but we will get there soon."
Montgomery said teachers could provide the same instruction the day before or after the holiday, too. He suggested the school district could provide some leadership in the community by developing events that celebrate King.
Board member Lew Hudson said that when he thinks back to King's life and what he stood for, he believes King would rather kids were in school learning rather than taking the day off.
No decision was made about the federal holiday. Lechner said several other school committees will be looking over the draft calendars, which will come back before the school board.
Superintendent Steve Razidlo said the Legislature may give school districts the option this year to start before Labor Day since it falls on Sept. 7. An early start would allow teachers to get one more week of learning in before annual state assessment tests. A late start, similar to this year, would mean school for students ends June 3, 2010.
Lechner provided board members with three drafts of the school calendar for the 2009-10 school year: One featured a spring break March 15-19, Good Friday off, with the last day of school on June 3; a second had no week-long spring break but Good Friday and Easter Monday off and a last day of school on May 31; and a third draft featured a Sept. 1 start, a spring break, Good Friday off and May 27 as the last day of school.
The committee recommended school board approval to make June 4 the last day of school this year, rather than June 3, to make up a cold weather day.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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