WASHINGTON – Gordon Browning would not be so bothered by the fact that most Maryland schools were open on Veterans Day if he thought teachers took the time to teach students about the importance of the holiday.
“I wouldn’t be terribly concerned if they spent the day doing memorial services, lessons about veterans, those kind of things,” said Browning, a veteran and retired teacher. “But generally, that doesn’t happen.”
Only four Maryland school districts — Allegany, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s — had Tuesday off. Prince George’s County had planned to cancel school, but wound up using Veterans Day as a storm-related make-up day.
Other school systems, in a bind to squeeze 180 school days between Christmas, spring break and snow days, have long scheduled classes on Veterans Day, which is not one of the holidays the state mandates.
“The reason we make that decision is it’s not a public school holiday, period,” said Talbot County schools Superintendent Karen Salmon. “We want to try to get in as many days while the weather is nice. If it’s not in the code, we’re in school.”
But Veterans Day should get the same respect as other patriotic holidays like Memorial Day and Independence Day, said Ric Santos, a former national commander of the American Legion and a 37-year member of the Legion’s Post 136 in Greenbelt.
“If you have to make up a day, would you make them go to school on Memorial Day?” Santos asked shortly after giving a speech Tuesday in Greenbelt about the need for schools and businesses to recognize the holiday. “They wouldn’t even think about going to school on Memorial Day.”
While Veterans Day is recognized, “it’s done at a lower level” than it is for Memorial Day, he said. “In some areas, it’s just a day at work or a day to buy furniture on sale.”
Closing schools and offices might increase the number of Veterans Day events because people would be free to attend, Santos said. That would boost awareness about Veterans Day for children today who may not have relationships with war veterans like past generations did.
Participation would “allow the children to recognize, hey, this is a special day,” Santos said.
Charles County schools made teachers report to work, but students stayed home, spokeswoman Katie O’Malley-Simpson said.
“Our board basically decided that they felt Veterans Day should be one of the days kids have off,” she said.
O’Malley-Simpson said school has been cancelled on Veterans Day for the past few years and that veterans serving on the county board of education — including its vice-chairman — might have helped the cause.
Santos agreed that systems with veterans as administrators may place more emphasis on the holiday, by either closing schools or bringing in speakers.
Harford County schools spokesman Don Morrison said administrators there “feel it’s more important to coordinate appropriate activities to bring home what Veterans Day is” than give kids a day off.
But Browning, who is also a former director of student services for Kent County schools, does not believe that happens in most Maryland schools.
“But we do (honor) some holidays that aren’t as important as this,” he said. “Maybe we should take a look at the calendar and decide what we really care about.”