A woman holds up a colorful Martin Luther King Jr. portrait at the 2015 MLK March. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The Harlandale Independent School District reversed course Wednesday on its decision to hold classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The district will in fact observe the holiday on Jan. 18 and add an extra day at the end of the school year, Superintendent Gerardo Soto said.

The school district received pushback from the San Antonio NAACP branch, teachers, and community members, who balked at the decision to use the federal holiday to make up for closing schools on Election Day. Harlandale ISD closed on Election Day for safety reasons because several of its campuses were voting centers.

The last day of school for Harlandale ISD students will now be June 7, and the last day for staff will be June 8.

Soto said the school district never intended to diminish the importance of King’s legacy and planned to incorporate the various virtual events that will be held on MLK Day into students’ lessons. But after receiving a letter from the San Antonio NAACP unit requesting that the holiday be observed and hearing from several staff and community members at Monday night’s board meeting, Soto spoke with district officials and school board members, who all agreed to reinstate the holiday.

“We’ll be the first to say that maybe that wasn’t the best decision,” he said.

San Antonio NAACP President Gregory Hudspeth, who wrote the Nov. 7 letter to Soto, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

The district had surveyed staff members to choose which day to exchange for the Election Day holiday, with the other options being Good Friday, Battle of Flowers Day, and Memorial Day. About 39 percent of the 1,139 staff members who responded selected MLK Day, followed by Battle of Flowers Day on April 23 with 27.5 percent.

Soto said Harlandale ISD added a day to the end of the school year rather than choosing another holiday to respect the wishes of all staff members. The changes to the school calendar are only for this school year.

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.