Parents upset with Leander ISD for scheduling class on Memorial Day


by SHELTON GREEN and ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and photojournalist MATT OLSEN

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Posted on February 6, 2014 at 6:58 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 6 at 11:20 PM

CEDAR PARK, Texas -- On Jan. 24 and 28, Mother Nature threw a curve ball at Central Texas: ice.

Austin Police responded to hundreds of accidents, road crews closed bridges and overpasses and schools canceled class. But those aren't exactly free days for students. They have to be made up.

In Leander, the bad weather make-up days are scheduled for April 28 and May 26, which is Memorial Day. Many parents aren't too pleased with the second make-up day.

"Already this year, they had school on Veteran's Day, but they took off Columbus Day. They took off a full week for Thanksgiving, just these last three days they took off for staff development/student holiday. So, they've had a lot of other random holidays that they've taken," said U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Major James Crabtree. His oldest child is a student in the Leander school district.

"I think the national holidays are being diminished too much, and I think patriotism should be reinforced," said Donna Mabry, whose grandson is a Leander ISD student.

Parents suggest the district request the make up day be waived by the Texas Education Agency, pick a different holiday to substitute or extend the school year by one day. But district officials say it's not that simple.  

"There's a lot of legal consideration that goes into making these decisions. For instance, teacher contracts have already been written and they were issued months before the school year started. And we can't extend work contracts. There are some very clear parameters that we can't cross," said Veronica Sopher, Leander ISD's senior executive director for school and community relations.

Crabtree, who served in Iraq from 2004 until 2005, said he finds it offensive.

"I think it's just disrespectful to the whole solemnity of the occasion. It's the only day that our nation sets aside to honor our war dead. My battalion lost 10 good Marines when we were in Iraq, so that day to me is the day that we recognize their sacrifice as well as all of those who have died in our nation's armed forces," Crabtree said.

“I think it's important that we stop and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can express our opinions in forums such as this,” said John Wilkes, a Navy Veteran and Leander parent.

If the board doesn't change the date, school officials say they use Memorial Day as an educational opportunity and will hold assemblies to teach children about the meaning of the holiday.
Late Thursday, Leander ISD announced that the district is cancelling classes due to weather once again, this time on Friday, Feb. 7.

It’s not clear when Leander ISD will make up the third and most recent weather day.  School district officials are mulling over state codes to learn more about options.

“At this point, we're looking at what we have, and we've received some additional information from our legal team and some of the associations that we belong to to give us some guidance,” said Veronica Sopher, a spokesperson for Leander ISD.

Austin ISD's make-up days are scheduled for Monday, Feb. 17 (President's Day) and on Friday, June 6. The last day of school for students was originally scheduled for June 5.

Round Rock ISD's make-up days are Feb. 17  and Friday, April 18 (Good Friday). However, the district spokesperson says the board will consider changing the April 18 make-up day to May 26 at its next board meeting.