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Unswayed by opposition, D-11 will hold classes on Veterans Day

February 12, 2014 Updated: February 13, 2014 at 5:08 am
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In the past, strong public opposition has proven successful in swaying Colorado Springs School District 11's board of education to close schools on Veterans Day.

The tactic didn't work this time.

Classes will be in session Nov. 11, the board decided Wednesday on a 6-1 vote .

Bob Null, who served in the Air Force for 35 years, cast the lone vote in opposition to keeping the school open that day.

"Why is there doubt that Veterans Day should be a holiday?" Null said. "It's a disgrace. It's belittling and insulting to our veterans."

Null's not the only one who feels that way. D-11 conducted an online survey last week in which 65 percent of respondents said schools should be closed on Veterans Day.

Each February a committee submits an academic school-year calendar that is subject to board approval, and this year the committee suggested schools be closed on Veterans Day. Last year, however, it suggested schools be open, but the board rejected that idea and closed in observance of the holiday.

This week, a mass force of military veterans, students and others showed up at the board meeting to speak in support of closing school for the holiday.

Retired Air Force Major Gen. Bentley Rayburn, who also is president of the board of Global Village Academy, a charter school that follows D-11's calendar, encouraged the board to recognize Veterans Day next year.

"Colorado Springs has one of the highest concentrations of military veterans and active-duty. Of all the groups that deserve recognition, it's our veterans," he said.

Board members argued that D-11 schools will have special events on Nov. 11 to show appreciation for veterans and learn about sacrifices made for the country.

"At no time has anyone on this board ever suggested that veterans not be recognized in the schools or that we take away those celebrations," said board member Elaine Naleski.

"That's the schools' students honoring the vets, not the district," Null said.

D-11 was one of a few local districts to close on Veterans Day for this school year. Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 got the day off, and so did students in Widefield School District 3. And some students in Lewis-Palmer School District 38 had the day off.

Since Veterans Day 2013 fell on a Monday, five rural districts that don't normally have school on Mondays also weren't in session.

Other local districts, including Academy D-20, Falcon D-49, Cheyenne Mountain D-12 and Harrison D-2, had school on Veterans Day last November.

Before casting his no vote, Null asked asking that alternatives be considered but got no support from his cohorts.

Larry Anderson, an Air Force veteran, said he was "more than disappointed" at the board's decision.

"I'm appalled at the afrontry that they somehow believe that the academic environment can teach the lessons of patriotism and commitment and sacrifice better than the people who have done that," he said.

The approved 2014-2015 calendar has another notable change: students will have the entire week of Thanksgiving off.

Two-thirds of the 1,777 parents, staff and community members who answered the survey indicated they prefer a week-long closure.

That had been the case for the past two academic years but was shortened this school year to a three-day break.

Board member Jim Mason said that resulted in many students being absent from class and substitutes filling in for absent teachers.

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