A school board in Stamford, Connecticut, ignited controversy after voting to remove holidays for Veterans Day and Columbus Day, with students being expected to attend class on those dates for the next two years, local outlets reported.
WABC, an affiliate of ABC based in New York City, reported that one board member argued that the school’s 181 day year, which would last into mid-June, is too long, and should be shortened. However, the decision to cut the holidays generated responses from veterans and others who were outraged.
Alfred Fusco, a veteran and founding member of Stamford’s chapter of the Italian-American service organization UNICO, told the outlet the move was a “gut punch” to him, adding, “It was terrible. It had no inclination.”
The decision drew fire on X as well, with some blasting the decision as “woke” and labeling it as an aspect of “cancel culture.”
One wrote, “Why stop there? Eliminate Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas!” and another labeled the decision “unconscionable.”
The board voted 5-3 in favor of the decision, while the board’s president was absent.
According to the Stamford Advocate, board member Joshua Esses was the one behind the proposal to remove the two holidays, who also proposed removing Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday, and the second day of Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah from the calendar. However, neither of those suggestions received support.
The outlet noted that Esses argued both Veterans Day and Columbus Day could be incorporated into the school curriculum rather than observing the holidays at home.
State statute gives regional boards of education authorization to close public schools or keep them open on select holidays outside December and January. However, if class is held on a holiday, schools are required to hold a “suitable nonsectarian educational program” to observe that day.
“The Stamford Board of Education (BOE) is responsible for approving the annual District calendar, and the State of Connecticut gives local and regional boards of education the discretion to keep schools open on any federal holiday except those occurring in December and January,” A district spokesperson for Stamford Public Schools said in a statement.
“On Tuesday, January 23, the Stamford BOE approved the 2024-25 and 2025-2026 Stamford Public Schools calendars following passage of a motion to have schools remain open on Columbus Day and Veterans Day. Schools in several neighboring districts already remain open on Columbus Day and/or Veterans Day, and both holidays will continue to be acknowledged on the Stamford Public Schools calendar along with other holidays and religious observances that fall on days when school is in session.”
The State does require schools that remain open on a federal holiday to offer a ‘suitable nonsectarian educational program’ in observance of that holiday. Stamford Public Schools already hosts many events in recognition of our local veterans, and we look forward to continuing that tradition on Veterans’ Day in 2024 and 2025. In addition, our Teaching and Learning Department will be working to develop programming about Columbus Day that will be presented to students in recognition of that federal holiday.”
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