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Iowa City Schools re-evaluating MLK Day decision

BY MEGAN SANCHEZ | DECEMBER 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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For the more than 30 people wearing Dr. Martin Luther King’s face on their shirts at the Iowa City School Board meeting, there is a possibility for change.

The board voted on Tuesday night to reconsider and evaluate logistics for holding school on Martin Luther King Day next year and for years to come.

After nearly two hours of discussion by the board and more than a dozen testimonies from concerned community members and parents, the board voted to have Superintendent Steve Murley look at the logistics of canceling school on that day.

This is the first year the Iowa City School District scheduled school on the national holiday, and while community members expressed their efforts had good intentions, some said the decision to hold school on the holiday was made under the radar.

“We’re going backwards,” said Iowa City resident Royceann Porter at the meeting. “I don’t agree with what’s going on. The community was not involved. I was not notified about [any] of this. This was accidentally mentioned, and now we’re standing here asking what happened. You did not include us.”

While many community members expressed they wanted the day off to celebrate and honor Dr. King, board President Sally Hoelscher said she is not confident that all students and their families celebrate the holiday. She noted that some students’ parents have to work, therefore the children might be left unattended during the holiday.

For the currently scheduled school day, the district has planned a plethora of activities to encourage recognition for Dr. King among students such as assemblies and service-opportunity fairs during.

Because these events have already been scheduled, the board worried that moving them would cause issues.

The main issue board members found was finding a day to hold school if classes were canceled on the holiday. Board members had concerns about cutting into graduation and ensuring Carver Hawkeye Arena could hold the ceremony if the time were to change.

Murley said he thinks the decision to review logistics is a good one, and he hopes to preserve educational opportunities intended by the board.

“I think that what we heard from the community members was unintended consequences,” he said. “The intent was to provide a universal impact on all the students, and certainly that’s something our teachers do every day.”

Other community members, including district parent Henri Harper, said the educational events should still be held, but they should be optional to the entire community and the day should still be school-free.

“A lot of people just became aware that there was school on Martin Luther King Day, and there was no input or discussion from the community,” the Iowa City resident said, stating he felt the board was not listening to his request. “It’s kind of disrespectful.”

Board member Jeff McGuiness said he thinks Murley’s decision to review the issue is a step in the right direction.

“We’ve recognized that we, maybe, made a decision based on incomplete information, and we are now seeking to rectify that,” he said. “My hope is that we have an ability to rectify our decision, or change our decision, and then we can discuss whether that’s something we want to do at a future date.”


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