Only a few school districts in the greater New Haven area have school on Veteran’s Day, but those who so, use the day to educate students about the contribution veterans have made and the importance of the holiday.
Most districts, however, will follow the traditional practice of closing schools in honor of the nation’s veterans on Friday, Nov. 11.
A review of school calendars for districts in the region show that only Branford and North Branford will have school that day. Stratford, Orange, New Haven, West Haven, Bethany, Woodbridge, Amity Region No. 5, North Haven, Milford, Hamden, East Haven and Cheshire will close their schools for the holiday.
Cheshire, however, might consider moving to the other group.
Last week, Cheshire Board of Education Chairman Gerald Brittingham asked the other board members to think about holding school instead when they approve the next school calendar. He said using the day to educate students about the importance of Veterans Day might be better than sending them home for the holiday.
“I am an honorably discharged Marine, and I put forth that it is a valuable learning tool,” Brittingham said.
He said he only wanted to start a discussion at this stage and hoped to hear the opinions of parents, veterans and other Cheshire residents about it.
Most towns observe Veterans Day with a formal ceremony. Unlike Memorial Day, which is a remembrance of the nation’s war dead, Veterans Day honors all veterans who served during peacetime and war.
Stratford Board of Education Vice Chairman Charles Lindberg, who graduated from Stratford High School in 1982, said his school district has closed schools on Veterans Day for as long as he can remember.
“It’s always been that way, even back when I was in school,” he said.
Lindberg has served on the board for two years, but he has also been president of several PTAs for the schools his children attended. He said he can’t remember any discussion about whether to hold school on the holiday.
“Traditionally, that is a holiday that we’ve taken off,” said Cheshire School Supt. Greg T. Florio. He added that he is open to a discussion about it, however, and feels that Brittingham’s proposal has merit.
Cheshire schools were closed for four days last week because of power outages from the Oct. 29 surprise snowstorm. Florio said that having school would provide the district more flexibility for its school calendar. He added, however, that any discussion about holding school on Veterans Day should focus on its educational value.
“We made the decision a couple of years ago because we feel the students can better understand the meaning of Veterans Day,” said Branford Board of Education Chairman Frank Carrano.
He said the Branford schools invite veterans to come in and talk to students about their military service and the meaning of the holiday.
“We see it as a much more positive learning experience than to have the kids stay home,” said Carrano, who teaches education at Southern Connecticut State University.
North Branford schools also hold special educational programs on Veterans Day. Children at Jerome Harrison Elementary School (kindergarten-grade 2) will hold an assembly with guest veterans to sing patriotic songs and watch a slide show about Veterans Day. Totoket Valley Elementary School will hold a similar assembly, and children will collect donated gift items for military personnel who recently returned from the Middle East.
Ceremonies and educational activities are also scheduled at the town’s Intermediate School and High School.
North Branford Board of Education Chairman Marcey Onofrio said she has attended several of these observances in past years. “They’re designed to recognize and honor the veterans and troops,” she said.
Brittingham said he is aware that many veterans feel strongly that Veterans Day should be observed as a school holiday. But he said other veterans he has spoken to thought holding educational programs about Veterans Day at the schools was a good idea.
“If we really want to teach kids what veterans have done and what Veterans Day is all about, let’s do it,” he said.