- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Alexandria public schools administrators have scrapped the Memorial Day holiday this year to make up for class days missed in the winter.
   The decision upset many teachers, several of whom are veterans or spouses of veterans, especially with service members fighting in Iraq.
   “It’s about people who give their lives for our country. This is about people in wheelchairs,” said Hilari Hinnant, a first-grade teacher at John Adams Elementary School whose husband served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. “It’s a serious holiday, especially given what our country has been through.”
   Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who died in military service. Its roots are disputed, but it was first officially observed May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at the Arlington National Cemetery.
   Jacqualyne Evans Mcrae, a teacher at John Adams school, was part of an Air Force unit stationed in Aviano, Italy, during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, and the traditional holiday holds special meaning for her. But this Memorial Day, May 26, she will be working, while her counterparts in other area school districts will take time off to honor America’s war dead.
   Ms. Evans Mcrae conceded that the day honoring troops may not be much more than a time to hit the pools and parks for some children, but added that the operations in Iraq make it more likely that parents would take the time this year to remind their children about the U.S.-led war efforts and the people involved in the same.
   "There is the chance for a more open reflection and acknowledgment, and a lot of parents want their children to experience and know about it," she said. "I think more parents would go down to the memorials and monuments."
   The decision to use Memorial Day as make-up day was made by administrators before the campaign in Iraq started, said Barbara Hunter, executive director of information and outreach. She said a few parents have complained, but added that while the school district respects their arguments, "I don't think there's any chance it will change."
   She said the schools could have a barbecue or similar event in celebration of troop efforts and many plan to talk to students about the significance of Memorial Day.
   "I suspect that many [students] miss the point of Memorial Day and don't realize how important what U.S. soldiers are doing is," Ms. Hunter said. "We're looking at this as really a way to teach them."
   Some teachers said they would rather tack on a school day at the end of the year than come to school on Memorial Day to meet the number of student-teacher contact days required. But Ms. Hunter said that wasn't done because students in grades seven through 12 are using those days to prepare for the Standards of Learning tests being held at the end of the school year.
   Kimberly Brooks, a speech pathologist at John Adams school, said she disagrees with the decision to have school that day but will try to educate students on the holiday by having them write letters, watch videos or discuss current events.
   "Even though I'm not a veteran, it's kind of deplorable because of where we live," Ms. Brooks said, referring to the school's proximity to the nation's capital and the Pentagon.

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