Memorial Day 2015 is back in the Bulloch County Schools' future — or rather, it is no longer on their calendar as a school day.
At Thursday night's Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Charles Wilson recommended amending the 2014-15 school calendar to restore Memorial Day as a holiday. The calendar adopted by the board in January had made it a class day as part of extending the school year through the final week of May.
A majority of teachers and other school employees who responded to a school system-administered survey had chosen that calendar over other options.
"It fell into that scope of the calendar, and as I said, I'll take responsibility," Wilson said, after explaining that Memorial Day previously had not been part of the school calendar. "It was an oversight on my part on what we presented out to be considered."
As he noted, Memorial Day has not been an issue on other recent school calendars. The 2013-14 term, which was not changed, will end the Friday before Memorial Day.
Making Memorial Day 2015 a school day drew opposition from veterans groups, some of whose leaders attended the meeting to make sure of Wilson's previous promise to find a solution.
The change he proposed substitutes another day as a work day for teachers but not as a class day for students. So there will be 179 class days next school year, instead of the standard 180. Georgia school districts have some leeway in this, and in fact the Bulloch schools haven't had to make up the four days they were closed this year because of icy weather.
At the start of next term's calendar, Friday, July 25, 2014, has now been added as a planning day for teachers and staff members who would otherwise have reported for four planning days beginning Monday, July 28, before students start school Friday, Aug. 1.
This keeps teachers and other employees who work 190 days on a full work calendar. For central office staff members who work 240 days, Memorial Day remains an official work day, but they will be able to take a vacation day, as was already the case, Wilson said.
Speaking to the board before Wilson's recommendation, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10825 Commander Jerry McCarthy and American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 Senior Vice Commander Dan Foglio said they had been notified of the proposed change but were there to see it done.
"I just want you to know that this means a lot to me, Memorial Day," Foglio said, noting that he has organized Memorial Day observances at the Averitt Center for the Arts for eight years running.
"We don't celebrate, we commemorate Memorial Day, because if you count the War Between the States, over 2 million Americans were killed (in all wars), and just to make it another day, another school day, really cuts me to the quick," Foglio said. "I just hope you people remember that in the future."
McCarthy had attended the March 13 meeting, alone, to demand restoration of Memorial Day as a holiday. He noted at the time that other veterans and members of an ROTC group had been ready to come with him and said they would turn out in force if needed.
"I really appreciated what they've done. I know all the veterans are," McCarthy said after Thursday's meeting. "I know it's hard to make these changes, but it's something veterans are really firm on. You don't mess with Memorial Day. That's our job, keeping it for these people who made the ultimate sacrifice, so nobody will forget."
Several other veterans, among them American Legion Post 90 Commander Terry Preslar, also attended in their organizational uniforms.
The board's vote, following a motion from Mike Herndon seconded by Steve Hein, was unanimous. Hein said he had talked to a number of teachers and found they had not realized the option made Memorial Day a school day. Some other options in the survey reduced the number of break days at Thanksgiving, a proposal that had already drawn objections.
"What I found out was they didn't read the material very well. All they looked at was blocks of (holidays), and they didn't realize," Hein told the veterans. "So I didn't want you to think ill of teachers."
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.