- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2003

Alexandria schools were open yesterday, despite grumbling by some students, parents and teachers. But students also took time out to plant flags and listen to veterans talk about the significance of the Memorial Day holiday.

Students at Mount Vernon Community School watched a video on the making of the Rocky Versace Memorial, listened to remarks from veterans, and placed flowers at the Versace memorial site adjacent to the school. Rocky Versace, who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in July, was an Alexandria resident and decorated Vietnam War hero who was taken prisoner of war and executed in captivity.

Francis C. Hammond Middle School students observed the holiday by placing 50 flags along the school’s border on Seminary Road and listening to taps played by the band directors.

At Maury Elementary, students traced their hands in red, white, or blue on paper to make a giant flag, on which they will write notes and sign their names to be sent to troops overseas.

Some parents and teachers, nonetheless, think the school system should have found a better way to make up days lost to snow this past winter.

Alexandria school administrators scrapped the Memorial Day holiday this year to make up for class days missed in the winter. They decided not to add days to the end of the school year because the School Board preferred to have time during the academic year to prepare students for spring tests.

The decision to use Memorial Day as a make-up day was made by administrators before the campaign in Iraq started, school officials said in April.

The decision upset many teachers, several of whom are veterans or spouses of veterans, especially with service members fighting in Iraq.

Hilari Hinnant, a first grade teacher at John Adams Elementary — and the wife of a Marine — said Memorial Day needs to be taken as a “serious” holiday.

“It’s about people who give their lives for our country,” she said.

Mrs. Hinnant said it’s an inappropriate choice for a make-up day. She said she would have preferred to come in on a Saturday instead.

Parent Dana Mitchell called it “horrible” and said students and staff with family members who served in the military should have been able to be off.

Memorial Day should be a day to honor soldiers, another parent said.

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 Arlington National Cemetery.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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