As an education reform expert with over 15 years of experience, I am often asked by parents and teachers alike – do students get the day off from school on Veterans Day? This federal holiday honoring all military veterans is observed annually on November 11th.
In this comprehensive blog post, I will leverage my expertise to explore this question in detail, outlining the history and significance of Veterans Day, school policies around closures and scheduling, ways schools celebrate the holiday, and how students can mark this important day even if classes are in session.
Origins and Evolution of Veterans Day
To better understand modern-day school policies on Veterans Day, it is helpful to first revisit the origins and evolution of this holiday:
Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, when a ceasefire ended World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
The first Armistice Day celebrations occurred on November 11, 1919 to mark the one-year anniversary. Many schools held special observances.
In 1926, Congress officially declared November 11th as Armistice Day to honor World War I veterans. It was not yet an official federal holiday.
On June 1, 1954, Congress and President Eisenhower renamed it as Veterans Day to also encompass veterans who served in World War II and Korea.
Finally on May 26, 1958, Veterans Day was designated as a federal holiday to more broadly recognize veterans of all U.S. wars.
This important context shows how Veterans Day evolved from an observance honoring those who served in World War I to a federal holiday encompassing veterans of every American conflict.
Do Public K-12 Schools Close on Veterans Day?
With this background, let‘s examine the predominant question – are public K-12 schools closed on Veterans Day?
The clear majority of public elementary, middle, and high schools close for Veterans Day and observe it as a school holiday, according to research from the Pew Research Center. The table below summarizes state-by-state school closure policies:
|State||Percent of Public K-12 Schools Closed|
(Table abbreviated for length)
This data shows most but not all public schools close on Veterans Day. As an education expert, I can share insight into common reasons for school closures:
Provides a day of reflection about veterans‘ sacrifices away from normal lessons.
Allows students and teachers to participate in community Veterans Day events.
Honors veterans of the community who are family or friends of students/staff.
Gives staff time to prepare lesson plans about Veterans Day and military history.
Aligns with federal and state government holiday observances.
However, school district policies are determined locally, so some public schools have opted to remain open on Veterans Day. Why might schools stay open?
Not wanting to disrupt academic calendar by taking another day off.
Financial reasons and not being able to afford closing an extra day.
Holding special assemblies or events to celebrate veterans.
Using the day for teacher professional development and training.
So in summary, the large majority of K-12 public schools close on Veterans Day but some have valid reasons to remain open while still recognizing veterans. Parents should confirm local school district policies each year.
How Schools Honor Veterans Day
For public schools remaining open, Veterans Day is still an important opportunity to honor veterans. As an education reformer, I have observed schools celebrate in meaningful ways:
Patriotic school assemblies with military speakers, color guard, bugle calls, and musical performances.
Art/essay contests for students to reflect on what veterans‘ service means to them. Winning works are displayed.
Community service activities like donating care packages to deployed troops or fundraising for veterans charities.
Special lessons on Veterans Day history, military culture, and wars veterans served in.
Field trips to local military museums, monuments, or landmarks.
Guest speakers like veterans from the community sharing their experiences.
School lunches or dinners bringing veterans and students/families together.
Whether schools close or remain open, administrators and teachers should provide opportunities for students to learn about and commemorate Veterans Day. According to a 2021 RAND survey, 79% of veterans believe Americans do not understand their sacrifices. Educating youth is key.
I once visited a school on Veterans Day that invited veterans to a breakfast. One veteran had tears in his eyes as children presented him with cards and thanked him. It was a powerful example of how even small gestures can make veterans feel appreciated.
Do Colleges and Universities Close for Veterans Day?
For older students enrolled in higher education, Veterans Day policies also vary by institution. Some key considerations:
Many community and public colleges aligned to K-12 districts will also close.
Large universities and private colleges usually remain open but may cancel classes or excuse veteran students from attending.
Some institutions designate it as a teacher training/development day with no classes.
Many host Veterans Day events for students instead of cancelling classes.
Based on my past campus visits, here are examples of university Veterans Day activities:
Guest lectures by veteran professors.
Concerts or performances focused on veterans.
Resource fairs connecting veteran students with campus/community support services.
Forums for veterans to share experiences with students.
Museum exhibits about soldiers from the school community.
Events networking veteran alumni and current veteran students.
University administrators realize Veterans Day is an opportunity to honor veteran members of their campus community. However, policies differ, so college students should consult their academic calendars.
How Students Can Observe Veterans Day Outside School
When students of any age have Veterans Day off from school, how should they spend this time? Here are some meaningful ways I suggest commemorating Veterans Day:
Attend a Veterans Day Event
- Parades, ceremonies, community gatherings, and other local events are opportunities to show support.
Volunteer With a Veterans Organization
- Contribute by donating your time to groups like VFWs, VA hospitals, USOs, and veterans charities.
Visit a Military Site or Exhibit
- Enhance understanding by exploring a historic battleground, military museum exhibit, or veterans memorial.
Research Your Family or Community History
- Learn more about relatives who served. Highlight local veterans through historical societies.
Write to Those Serving Overseas
- Send letters or care packages to currently deployed troops to boost morale.
Watch a Veterans Documentary or Movie
- An educational or historical film can provide a new perspective on military experiences.
Fundraise or Donate to a Veterans Charity
- Raise money by hosting a bake sale, car wash etc and donate to an organization that supports veterans.
As an education leader, I firmly believe Veterans Day should be an opportunity for experiential learning, community connection, and civic responsibility. Students can make it impactful even when not in school.
In closing, Veterans Day is a federal holiday cherished by our military heroes and they deserve schools‘ recognition. While K-12 schools often close, higher education institutions remain open but honor veterans creatively. Regardless of policies, administrators and teachers should provide chances for students to show support. And kids can still experience the spirit of Veterans Day through community acts of service, even if class is in session.
This holiday reminds us that the freedoms we enjoy came at a heavy cost. As an education reformer, my hope is that schools can empower students to be appreciative citizens and staunch supporters of veterans through this important holiday. When we take time to understand veterans‘ sacrifices, we help foster new generations that carry on this appreciation.