NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The public schools will have a longer holiday vacation this year with the approval of the 2021-22 school calendar.
The Christmas vacation will start on Thursday, Dec. 23, and end on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. This is the same schedule used this school year, which saw the December date switched for the traditional Good Friday holiday in April.
The School Committee approved the calendar on Tuesday night though how the state's new Juneteenth holiday will be observed will depend on snow days.
Superintendent Barbara Malkas said the decision to go with the December holiday was based on feedback provided by the committee at its last meeting and the preference of the North Adams Teachers Association, which had been presented with both options.
"From what I understand, the overwhelming majority vote was for to keep Dec. 23, which is what we did this past year," she said. "So that is the calendar that's being presented to you. This has met with approval and more than two-thirds majority vote by North Adams Teachers Association."
Juneteenth, sometimes called Emancipation or Jubilee Day, was designated as a state holiday last July, although it has been recognized by proclamation since 2007. The day commemorates the freeing of enslaved persons in the last state of the confederacy, Texas, on June 19, 1865, by Union Gen. Gordan Granger. The 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, had already been approved by Congress and was ratified by the states on Dec. 6 of that year.
The holiday was first celebrated in Texas but is now recognized in some form in nearly all the states and territories. Senators including U.S. Sen. Edward Markey filed a bill last year to make it a federal day of observance.
The schools will close on Monday, June 20, 2022, for Juneteenth but only if the school year goes that far into June. Should snow days not be used, school will close on Friday, June 17, 2022. The final day of school will not be known until next year.
School Committee member Tara Jacobs had also raised the possibility of renaming Columbus Day, which occurs the second Monday in October (near the date of Oct. 12, 1492, when the Genovese explorer landed on what is now Hispaniola).
A number of school systems, including Pittsfield Public Schools, have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. There has been a national move toward recognizing that the native peoples of the New World had a very different and often brutal experience at the hands of Columbus and those who followed him.
"So there is some consideration that needs to happen with regards to both of those days," Malkas, said. "Because that involves a broader conversation with the city as a whole since so many of our contracts and other legal documents identifies specifically Columbus Day and do not have Juneteenth. So we'll have to take that off as a separate entity, but by getting this calendar recognized for now, based on past practice that would allow us to communicate what the dates are with our community."
Jacobs said she understood the need to approve the calendar but thought now as the time to find a "thoughtful and choiceful and community engaging kind of way" forward since the holiday will be coming around again.
"To make the effort so that the next time this calendar cycle circles around we've already done the work so that it's all ready," she said. "At some point, not too long ago, we took the effort to proclaim us a safe and inclusive city, and to me this is a part of living that proclamation."
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