Editor's note: This article has been changed to reflect the fact that Tricia Dieringer is a member of Elgin's American Legion Post 57.
About a dozen veterans showed up to the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board meeting Monday night urging board members to keep kids in school on the holiday celebrating their service.
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U-46 is considering getting a waiver from the state to take Veterans Day off the list of holidays for which students can stay home. The idea would be to provide Veterans Day programming for the youths instead of leaving them to their own devices on a day off.
Tricia Dieringer, a member of Elgin American Legion Post 57, spoke during a public hearing about the proposal Monday night.
"Every year the City of Elgin puts on a Veterans Day program, and what's very disheartening for us is that it's a day off but it's not a day off with meaning," Dieringer said, adding that maybe what needs to happen is bringing the program to students instead of the other way around.
Most of the 10 people who spoke during the public hearing advocated the change, which several area districts have already made. Community Unit District 300 made Veterans Day a school day for the Carpentersville area students starting in November 2009. Huntley Consolidated School District 158 students have had school on Veterans Day for at least seven years, according to Lori Woods, spokeswoman for the district.
Veterans from Bartlett VFW Post 11018 spoke about the Bartlett elementary schools their post has visited leading up to the Nov. 11 holiday in prior years, most advocating a school day as a programming venue and an opportunity to increase youth patriotism.
"With the media and sales promotions around the white sale on Veterans Day and the annual kickoff on Memorial Day, we're sending the wrong message," said John Seger, a member of the Bartlett post. "I thoroughly believe our school district can do a better job of teaching those patriotic values."
Some district residents expressed concern that the schools would not do an adequate job of organizing quality programming or would do so for a few years and then let the holiday fade, using the extra class day for the standard curriculum.
Jeannette Ward, a Wayne resident, said she didn't have a problem with the extra school day, but worried it would send a message that Veterans Day was less important than Martin Luther King Jr. Day or Columbus Day.
The board will vote officially on the 2013-14 calendar at the Feb. 25 meeting. Included in the calendar discussion was a proposal to start the school year a week earlier, on Aug. 14, with teacher institute days planned for Aug. 12 and 13. The primary benefit of this change, as the board heard Monday, is that the first semester would end before winter break, giving older students the chance to take final exams before taking time off.
Two teachers spoke out against the change, both having already made plans for the second week of August, expecting classes to start the following week.
After much discussion, the school board decided to vote on the official calendar at its Feb. 25 meeting instead of its meeting next Monday to give the community more time to reach out with thoughts on the earlier start date.