Harlandale ISD changes course on MLK holiday, adds extra school day instead

The holiday was nearly voted off of district calendar due to survey results

Harlandale ISD changes course on MLK holiday, adds extra school day instead

SAN ANTONIO – Harlandale ISD announced Wednesday that Martin Luther King Jr. Day would remain a holiday on district calendars this school year and that an extra day has been added to the school year instead.

According to an announcement by the district, the initial decision to exchange the Martin Luther King holiday with the Election Day holiday was decided by a survey sent to all employees last month. Because of COVID-19 concerns, the district wanted to keep students and staff away from campuses that were being utilized as voting locations.

But the district said that decision troubled different organizations included the San Antonio Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“While we believe that having our students take part of the MLK virtual events during a school day was going to be a great learning opportunity to honor and understand more about Dr King’s legacy, we have decided to keep the Martin Luther King day a holiday and instead add an extra day to our school calendar at the end of the school year,” Superintendent Gerardo Soto said in a letter to the district.

Gregory Hudspeth, the organization’s president, said the holiday serves as a reminder of a great man and civic leader.

“We believe that the King’s Day celebration is an important day in our collective history,” Hudspeth said in a statement. “Dr. King’s work was to ensure equality and equal justice for all people; this should be our work as well. It should be all our work to ensure our students understand our history and have an appreciation for our future. We believe that the day designated for Dr. King’s birthday, January 18, 2021, should be a day to honor and reflect on the life and dream of this great civil rights leader.”

NAACP-SA’s response to Harlandale ISD removing MLK Jr. Day (January 18th) as a Holiday on their Instructional Calendar...

Posted by NAACP San Antonio Branch on Saturday, November 14, 2020

Because of the change, the last day of classes for students has been moved to June 7, 2021, and the last day of work for campus staff moved to June 8, 2021.

“We ask all of our Harlandale ISD families and staff to make plans for this extension,” the district said in a statement. “We understand that our decisions affect all of our students and staff and that is why we don’t take them lightly and we always keep your best interest in mind.”

Reacting to the district’s change, Hudspeth said he was glad officials were able to correct the issue and work to impact change by continuing to highlight King.

”We commend them on their decision and we think it was the right decision to make,” Hudspeth told KSAT. “And I think it shows the goodwill and the good intent that and it shows that they did not it was not their intent to do something that was harmful to a particular group. It was simply that it was really the low hanging fruit, if you will. It was easy to do at this point in time.”

Related: MLK Day Special - Jan. 20, 2020

About the Author:

Jakob Rodriguez is a digital journalist at KSAT 12. He's a graduate of Texas State University, where he served as the editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper, The University Star.