The Georgia House of Representatives has passed a bill that would require schools to close on Veterans Day. Supporters and opponents of the legislation agree on one thing -- the day is best spent honoring veterans -- but they disagree on whether that should be done in school, and whether it should be the local government's call.
The Columbia County school board would have to revise the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic calendars, which already have been approved with school in session on Veterans Day.
The bill would not affect Richmond County schools, which are closed on Veterans Day.
SCHOOL BOARDS' VIEW
"I like that we have school on Veterans Day because each of our schools had programs," said Regina Buccafusco, the Columbia County school board chairwoman. However, she said the schools could schedule their programs for another day.
Mrs. Buccafusco said she did not anticipate any problems with approving new school calendars. However, she feared students will spend their day off sleeping late, playing video games or shopping instead of acknowledging the holiday.
She also said the decision should be left up to individual school boards.
"I just wish they would keep their nose out of it," Ms. Buccafusco said of state lawmakers.
Marion Barnes, a Richmond County school board member, supported the measure.
"I'm biased. Being a veteran, I think we should be closed on Veterans Day to honor those who served their country and died for their country," he said.
He agreed that the decision should be made locally.
"I really think it should be left up to each community because each community has a different set of ideas," he said.
World War II veteran Gilbert Ward, of Evans, supported the bill.
"I believe for the morale of not only the men in service, but for our nation, we need to remember these men and what they have done and are doing," he said. "As far as it being a law, I certainly think we should make some effort to renew our support of the military."
Thales Elliott, a Vietnam veteran and former Richmond County school board member, said he pushed to make Veterans Day a school holiday during his board tenure in the mid-1980s. He said he would like to see schools closed statewide on the holiday.
"I'm a veteran, and I think that it's reasonable for us to respect and honor that day. I think it's something worthwhile for our children to understand," said Evans resident Rex Wright, who has two children in school.
Kelley Gassman, of Evans, who has a child in elementary school, said it did not matter to her if the schools were closed on Veterans Day. She said it is important to recognize veterans and that the state Legislature should make the decision about closing schools for the holiday.
"If the schools are going to do it, I think they should do it across the state," she said.
The bill has been sent to the state Senate Rules Committee. If the Senate approves the measure, which has no implementation date, it would go into effect upon approval by Gov. Sonny Perdue.
--- Betsy Gilliland, staff writer