Only one Florida school district still recognizes Columbus Day
Christopher Columbus, the one who, in 1492 sailed the ocean blue with three ships and left from Spain, through sunshine, wind and rain, has found himself and his holiday increasingly out of vogue in the United States.
Columbus Day remains one of eleven federal holidays and is recognized as an off-day for state workers in 16 states, according to a Pew Research Center report. Florida is not one of them, and the state does not recognize it as an official state holiday.
In Florida, counties have the discretion to decide whether or not to take Columbus Day off. According to a calendar from the Florida Department of Education, only one traditional public school district in the state does so: Bay County, in the Florida Panhandle.
Bay County schools were off Columbus Day.
The Collegiate School at FSU Panama City, a separate developmental research lab school in Bay County, also was off for Columbus Day.
Popular historical scholarship in recent decades has cast Columbus in a far less positive light than the “discoverer of America” status he held for years would suggest.
“Celebrating Columbus and other explorers like him dismisses the devastating losses experienced by Indigenous Peoples of the Western Hemisphere in the past and the ongoing effects of colonialism today,” according to the National Museum of the American Indian.
Some states and companies now celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which falls on the same day as Columbus Day – Oct. 9.
“On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we honor the perseverance and courage of Indigenous peoples, show our gratitude for the myriad contributions they have made to our world, and renew our commitment to respect Tribal sovereignty and self-determination,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Friday.
President Biden was the first president to issue an official proclamation for Indigenous Peoples Day in 2021.
Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, said the reduction in Columbus Day probably has less to do with the Italian explorer becoming a historical pariah than the state trying to get in more days of school before winter break.
“Once [Florida] started adding high-stakes tests years ago, we saw the attempt to move the school year earlier in the year … some districts were even going back in July.”
Spar also pointed out that many school districts switched recognition of Columbus Day with Veterans’ Day (Nov. 11, observed as Nov. 10 in 2023) as a holiday to gives students and faculty off.