Shrewsbury Schools add Indigenous Peoples Day, Juneteenth to school calendar

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury Schools add Indigenous Peoples Day, Juneteenth to school calendar
A file photo shows Shrewsbury High School last summer. (File photo by/Dakota Antelman)

Shrewsbury – Two residents addressed the School Committee during the public participation portion of their March 10 meeting with concerns over the proposed school calendar for 2021-2022.

Community concerns drive changes

Sanam Zaer requested that the Committee consider replacing the name of the federal holiday Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. She read a letter that was sent to the committee a few months ago.

“… Last year the School Committee stated that it was not within the authority of the School Committee to make such a change,” she read. “However, several school Committees across the state have already done so…”

Zaer added that this change would “signal a commitment” to teaching history in a more inclusive and accurate way, while honoring the continued contributions of indigenous peoples in the community, the nation and the Americas.

Her comments were followed by Elizabeth Hylton who pointed out that Massachusetts just recently recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday. Hylton wanted to see that added to the school calendar.

Juneteenth is the oldest recognized holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.

Administrators respond to concerns

Superintendent Joseph Sawyer addressed Zaer and Hylton’s concerns.

He said he appreciated Hylton bringing Juneteenth to their attention. The state holiday will be recognized on June 19 each year. Because it falls on a Saturday this year it will have no impact on this year’s calendar. In 2022, though, Juneteenth falls on a Sunday. That will mean it will be recognized on Monday, June 20, per Massachusetts state law.

On the topic of Indigenous People’s Day, Sawyer recommended that the committee amend language to read “Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day.”

That, he said, will includes the legal name of the holiday while also recognizes that Indigenous Peoples Day has become a more widely accepted name for the day, commemorating North American native populations.

The committee accepted the calendar as amended.