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District 233 board says former Columbus Day needs a community-wide celebration

Students at Homewood-Flossmoor High School will have the day off on Monday for what would have been Columbus Day. The school board wants to give the day a special purpose next year.

Many schools have removed the Columbus Day designation and replaced it with Indigenous Peoples Day as a way to honor those who were in the Americas before Columbus reached its shores.

But District 233 board members decided they wanted to contemplate how best to mark the day. They hope over the next year the administration and staff will be able to come up with a way to mark diversity, equity and inclusion of all peoples on that holiday, or maybe over a week’s time.

“It also shows the community that we’re recognizing there’s something bigger to this day. We just want to plan accordingly for our district,” said board member Michelle Hoereth.

Board members initiated the discussion last school year, and the board’s planning committee picked up the issue for further review at the committee’s Aug. 27 meeting. Chairman Nate Legardy shared the discussion with the board at its September meeting.

At the planning committee meeting, member Debbie Berman said, “If we leave it as a day to celebrate inclusion that would be a really nice thing.” She wasn’t certain if it would mean doing something in the classroom or finding a way to celebrate, as the H-F community does with the Martin Luther King holiday in January where residents and students mark it as a day of service.

“Just changing the name with nothing behind it seems like we’re not accomplishing much other than something very superficial,” Berman said.

Superintendent Von Mansfield said he didn’t want to forget what Columbus did navigating the oceans, but, “There’s a lot of learning that needs to take place for trying to get the larger message across” adding “we would hope it would be more inclusive” rather than a focus on one group, one culture or one event.

Superintendent-elect Scott Wakeley said, “To pick a particular day, it’s hard to represent all of the people who have made contributions and then the nationalities and cultural importance. We want to weave that into everything we do and a celebration of who we are as H-F; that diversity that makes us special and different, rather than because the state tells us to (celebrate the day).

“I think we do a lot of things here at H-F that are just unique to us because we’re special and different. I think that is something that could really be a feather in our own cap in how we look at diversity,” he added.

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