LAND O’ LAKES — Students and school employees in Pasco County will get the entire Thanksgiving week off next year instead of just three days, but part of the trade-off is schools will be in session on Veterans Day.
The school board voted 4-1 to approve the 2014-15 school calendar this week, with board member Steve Luikart dissenting because he preferred the calendar committee find a way to keep Veterans Day a school holiday.
“I support Veterans Day,” Luikart said at a Tuesday evening school board meeting. “I think it needs to be taken off.”
Superintendent Kurt Browning disagreed. He said he has met with representatives of veterans groups who aren’t happy with the decision, but he maintained that ultimately it’s better for students to be in school so the holiday can be used to teach them about the sacrifices of veterans. He said he plans to tell principals to plan events, such as assemblies, and invite veterans to the schools to speak.
Few students attend Veterans Day activities when they have that day off, Browning said.
The school district has a calendar committee of teachers, other school workers, administrators and union representatives that hashes out the schedule each year before presenting a recommendation to the school board for approval. Officials say it can be a tricky business as committee members take into account holidays, testing dates, state rules on when school can begin and other factors as they try to make sure students are in class 180 days.
“This is not a decision that is made without a lot of input from a lot of different stakeholders,” board member Cynthia Armstrong said.
In 2014, the first day of school will be Aug. 18 for students, with teachers reporting a week earlier.
Most years, Pasco schools get three days off for the Thanksgiving holiday, but in 2014 they will close the entire week.
That works better because traditionally there is high absenteeism among both students and staff on the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, Browning said.
Pasco schools also took Thanksgiving week off in 2012, but employees were warned at the time that likely would be a one-time event. The board added a similar caveat Tuesday evening.
“This does not say forever more we are going to have a week at Thanksgiving,” board member Joanne Hurley said.