Why MLK Day is observed in some schools but not others - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Why MLK Day is observed in some schools but not others

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Schools and colleges all over the country observed Doctor Martin Luther King Junior Day Monday, a federal holiday, but while many people were able to stay home in remembrance of King's legacy, some people had to work and go to school. Students in the Westside School District were among several students at other schools who were required to attend school Monday. According to Superintendent Dr. Bryan Duffie, students were making up a snow day from last week's winter storm.

"We're in school because this was designated as one of the snow makeup days that we have on our school calendar," said Duffie. "Arkansas schools are required to have five snow makeup days on the school calendar, and are strongly encouraged by the commissioner to have as many snow makeup days before benchmark and end of course testing."

Duffie said many students were absent Monday. According to Haulston Mann, a senior at Westside High School, many African American students did not attend class Monday.

"It's something that no matter how special it is to any of us that are here today, for them, it's so much more," said Mann. "When we're here, they definitely want to emphasize on it today."

The Westside School District's web-site states that Martin Luther King Day was the first of five teacher in-service/snow makeup days. If Westside does not miss for another snow day, then students will be off on President's day on February 21, the Friday before Spring Break on March 18, Good Friday on April 22nd and May 31st.

"It's approved and usually we try to approve the school calendar in April or may that previous year so it's all spelled out ahead of time," said Duffie.

Duffie, who is in his first year as superintendent, said Monday that students are more prone to learn about King and the Civil Rights Movement if they are in school.

"In general this is just a regular school day, kind of making up time from last week and we have a few classes that are doing some things surrounding Martin Luther King Day," said Duffie. "As far as if you're in school, if there is a structure and some classes doing some things, I would they're more exposure that way."

Mary Walker, who helps organize Black History Month programs at Westside, said the district is not very diverse. She said it's important for her to include different cultural and social lessons in her teaching.

"I try to reinforce some of the man's life in addition to what a great speaker, and what he gave his life for," said Walker. "They're (African Americans) quite a minority here at Westside, and I want the kids to understand not to judge people."

Duffie said students were better off spending Monday in the classroom than a day away from it.

"The five makeup days have to be added to the calendar mandatory for all school districts in the state, and then the intent is to get those as early as possible before state testing," said Duffie. "That's something that comes directly from the (Arkansas) Department of Ed."

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