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Education and Family

Unit 5 Debates Observing Columbus Day, Indigeneous Peoples Day

Carleigh Gray
Unit 5 School Board member David Fortner

Unit 5 school board member David Fortner said Wednesday he wants to do away with Columbus Day.

Students within Unit 5 schools have been requesting a celebration and observance of an Indigenous Peoples Day to honor Native American history and culture. State law requires public schools to recognize government holidays like Columbus Day. Illinois officially recognizes the last Monday of September as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Fortner said properly celebrating the holiday means schools should ban Columbus Day.

"When you say, 'Well we're not going to take Columbus Day off the calendar, but let's have another day,' that's what our indigenous tribes are talking about. It's just another slap in the face. If you read Columbus' journals, he talks about, in very plain language, the awful and horrific things that he did," Fortner said.

Fortner said he supports students calling on local politicians like state Rep. Dan Brady and Sen. Jason Barickman, both Republicans from Bloomington, to get rid of Columbus Day.

The board decided to find a way to recognize indigenous people after talking with students and staff. Board President Jim Hayek said Unit 5 could lose its status as a public school if they banned the holiday.

Bringing In Buses

Unit 5 is working to replace old school buses and add more wheelchair-friendly buses to their fleet.

Several of the 29 school buses the school board wants to replace are 2003 models. Business Manager Marty Hickman said 11 brand new buses are likely to come in shortly after the beginning of next school year.

"School will start with some of the older buses that are currently in service. When the additional 11 come in from that bid contract then we'll just swap out at that time," he said.

Hickman said they will also consider purchasing one to 2-year-old used buses to save money. He said Unit 5 has only received one state payment to the district's transportation fund during this fiscal year.

Wednesday's meeting was the last for Hayek. He works for State Farm and will be relocating to Phoenix.

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