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School Board to vote on not having classes for MLK Day

BY CARTER CRANBERG | FEBRUARY 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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Local children receive an additional holiday this coming school year.

The Iowa City School Board will vote on its 2014-2015 calendar, deciding whether to hold classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day after listening to many angry people from the community. Currently, the calendar for the 2014-2015 school year has recess on King Day.

During its Dec. 17, 2013 meeting, the School Board heard the concerns of many citizens and organizations, including the Coalition of Racial Justice and Coalition of Worker Justice. Those who addressed the board spoke of how holding school on King Day did not lend to a proper observance of the holiday.

The board looked into implementing a holiday this year but discovered that the scholastic calendar, which has already been voted on, could not be altered.

One of the issues raised in opposition to instating a holiday was that schools were scheduled to have the first ever service-learning day instead of canceling classes. The service-learning day intended to offer students the opportunity to volunteer at the Crisis Center, learn about Martin Luther King Jr., or hear from ethnic speakers.

Board members expressed apprehension on going forward with a decision so quickly because the board didn’t discuss the issue in detail until December.

At the December meeting, officials decided it would make a decision at this Tuesday’s meeting regarding the holiday, but School Board member Tuyet Durau said it still might be too soon.

“[I] thought it was a bit premature seeing that we haven’t seen the feedback from the service learning project done this year,” she said.

Community speakers who were in opposition to holding classes felt it did not offer students the proper venue to observe the holiday.

Dorthy Whiston, a member of the Racial Justice Coalition, noted that the need for a holiday was important to her and the special-service day did not offer the same value as a dismissal of classes would.

“I think a lot of the activities they had planned were wonderful and had to do with the civil-rights movement, but at the same time, a lot of the activities did not,” she said. “For many black families, this is a special day, and they have their own celebrations within the community outside of school. We encourage schools to do these things, but just not during the holiday itself.”

Board members took the coalitions view into account, but the board’s views were split.

“The coalitions came and presented their views,” board President Sally Hoelscher said. “The board looked into changing the holiday this year but was unable to.”

While the board is divided on the issue, Durau said she believes the vote will be condensed to two concerns.

“I think it boils down to two issues,” she said. “One is that whether or not the board is sensitive to the community’s desires. The other is whether or not we engage our community in our decision making and implementation of the those decisions."


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