The New Paltz Board of Education is still considering changes suggested last fall, including replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day and changes to the curriculum to reflect inclusion of the original inhabitants of this region in the story of America’s founding.
At the March 1 meeting, schools Superintendent Maria Rice said administrators have been working with a curriculum specialist to develop racial equity in future curriculum. If the board decides to convert Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day by the next time the holiday rolls around in October, however, she told trustees, if that curriculum hasn’t been finalized and implemented, administrators want to be able to offer resources to the different grade levels and departments to support the new focus for the holiday.
The board is still officially considering whether they’ll make the change, but their meeting agendas state the adoption of Indigenous Peoples Day as a district goal.
The team working on the curriculum changes have a meeting scheduled for later this month, Rice said, with the work likely to continue remotely over the summer.
The matter came up for review after board member Sophia Skiles read a prepared statement she’d written before a meeting last November. She said that changing the focus of the holiday was important because “how America was discovered is our origin story. It introduces and codifies who is considered American and who is not. It is often a child’s first lesson about encounters between people of different races and cultures. We owe it to the children of this district to faithfully and bravely examine the version of history we’ve chosen to tell.”
School districts in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle have already adopted this change and Alaska, Oregon and Hawaii do not observe Columbus Day at all, Skiles said, adding that South Dakota officially celebrates Native American Day, and New York State districts that have already recognized the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day include those in Rochester, Plattsburgh and Niagara Wheatfield.
Board members at the time agreed unanimously with the statement. Each said that they wish to make the change in the name of the holiday and see curriculum developed to support that. The only point of contention was the timeframe for doing so.