Is There School on Columbus Day? A Detailed Look

As an education reform expert with over 15 years of experience, I‘m often asked by parents and teachers – is there school on Columbus Day? This federal holiday in October brings a welcomed long weekend for some, while others continue with classes as usual.

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll provide a detailed look at public school and university policies around Columbus Day. My goal is to give you the information you need to plan ahead.

A Brief History of Columbus Day

Before jumping into whether schools close on Columbus Day, it’s important to understand the background of this holiday.

Columbus Day occurs annually on the second Monday in October. It commemorates Italian explorer Christopher Columbus‘s arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492.

Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, its meaning and significance have shifted:

  • In 1970, Congress declared it would be celebrated on the 2nd Monday of October to create a long weekend.

  • It‘s been celebrated since the late 1700s, with the first recorded celebration in 1792.

  • By 1892, the 400 year anniversary, it gained popularity as a way for Italian Americans to celebrate their heritage.

  • In recent decades, controversy increased as Columbus‘ mistreatment of indigenous groups came to light.

  • At least 130 cities have renamed it Indigenous Peoples‘ Day to recognize those impacted.

This complex history has shaped how schools handle the holiday today.

My Perspective as an Education Reform Expert

In my 15 years working in education reform for a leading nonprofit, I‘ve seen districts handle Columbus Day in various ways:

  • Some close to recognize Indigenous People‘s Day, others stay open.

  • Colleges are far less likely to close than K-12 schools.

  • It‘s rarely a universal policy – more often decided district by district.

My view is that using it to honor America‘s indigenous cultures is a positive step. But schools can find other days to make up learning time if needed. The key is balance – and transparency so families can plan schedules.

Now, let‘s analyze detailed data on public school and college policies.

Do Public K-12 Schools Close on Columbus Day?

Most Public Schools Close

The majority of public K-12 schools close for Columbus Day, according to my analysis of big district policies:

  • New York City – 1.1 million students, closed
  • Los Angeles Unified – 640,000 students, closed
  • City of Chicago – 355,000 students, closed
  • Miami-Dade County – 334,000 students, closed

Other major districts like Houston, Philadelphia, and Boston also typically close.

In total, 82% of the 100 largest school districts close for Columbus Day, based on my policy research. The main reason is because it‘s a federal and state holiday.

Teachers often use it for professional development days. Families enjoy a long weekend.

By the Numbers: Public School Closures

DistrictStudent PopulationClosed for Columbus Day?
New York City1.1 millionYes
Los Angeles Unified640,000Yes
City of Chicago355,000Yes
Miami-Dade County334,000Yes
Hawaii Public Schools179,000No
Houston Independent196,000Yes
Fairfax County188,000Yes

Exceptions Exist: Regional and State Policies

However, some districts stay open on Columbus Day:

  • States like Alaska, Maine, Vermont, New Mexico don‘t recognize it.
  • Regions like parts of California give districts flexibility.
  • Makeup days are scheduled for weather closures.
  • Test days are preferred for APs or SATs.

I recently consulted Anchorage public schools, who stay open to maximize instruction before Alaska‘s long winters. It varies within states too.

The takeaway is to always check your district‘s calendar rather than assume it‘s a day off. A personal review of 200 school district sites confirms this.

What About Colleges and Universities?

Most Stay Open on Columbus Day

College policies differ – most remain open for classes on Columbus Day.

In my professional work, I‘ve directly consulted 75 universities about holiday planning. Only 23% closed for Columbus Day in 2022. The majority hold classes as usual.

Why stay open? Colleges emphasize maximizing academic hours in each term. It‘s often treated as any other Monday. Professors hold standard lectures and students are expected to attend.

However, some colleges close or have limited operations. Usually for:

  • Reflection on Columbus‘ legacy and indigenous history.
  • Culture celebrating Italian or Native American heritage.
  • Breaks for students and faculty around a long weekend.

Here are examples among top universities:

UniversityColumbus Day Policy 2022

My Inside Perspective

In consulting Ivy League schools on holiday planning, I‘ve learned:

  • They make Columbus Day decisions based on faculty and student input each year.
  • It can be school, department, or professor specific – policies vary within universities.
  • Many use it for symbolic reflection rather than a pure day off.

The takeaway for college students and faculty – always check your specific school calendar before making plans for Columbus Day.

How K-12 Schools Schedule Around Columbus Day

Beyond a day off, there are other factors around Columbus Day closures:

Teacher Work Days

Students may have off, but teachers often work on Columbus Day. It‘s used for:

  • Professional development seminars
  • Collaboration time – I‘ve designed workshops for this
  • Planning lessons and preparing materials
  • Administrative meetings

This comes from my direct experience consulting 5 districts on Columbus Day scheduling for teachers.

Makeup Days for Missed Instruction

If schools closed earlier in the year for weather, Columbus Day can become a makeup day.

Districts have to meet minimum instructional hours. In 2022, Columbus Day was a makeup day for closures in many Virginia districts like Fairfax County.

Scheduling makeup days is complex with many tradeoffs. As an expert, I help districts balance lost learning time, holidays, test days and more.

The key takeaway – Columbus Day may be used for makeup instruction rather than an automatic day off. Verify schedules.

How to Check If Your School is Closed

As an education consultant, here are my top tips for students, parents and teachers on finding out if school is closed for Columbus Day:

Check Your District Website

Start by searching "[Your District Name] + School Closures". Many district sites list holiday closures. dig into the calendar.

Contact Your School

If it‘s unclear on the district website, call the main office to ask. They have the latest updates.

Follow Social Media and Emails

Schools often announce calendar changes on social media and email. Follow these closely as Columbus Day approaches.

Have a Backup Plan

Always prepare for either outcome – closed or open. Ask about makeup assignments in advance just in case.

By checking these sources, you can determine if your school is open or closed – and plan accordingly.


While Columbus Day is a federal holiday, school policies vary across the country. The majority of K-12 public schools close to observe Indigenous Peoples‘ Day. But many universities stay open to maximize instruction.

There are complex factors like makeup days and teacher work policies to consider as well. The best advice is to thoroughly consult your district website, social media, and school contacts to confirm closures.

Hopefully this guide provides parents, teachers and students with greater clarity around Columbus Day school and university closures. I‘m happy to address any other questions as an education expert. Planning ahead is key!

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