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School Open for MLK Jr. Day

CORALVILLE, IA (CBS2/FOX28) More Iowa City students now have a better understanding of the history surrounding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Iowa City School District held classes today, but teachers didnt use an ordinary lesson plan.

The district says the point was for today to be anything but just another day at school. Instead, teachers took a break from their curriculum to focus on Dr. Kings legacy.

"In the 1930's in the south they had Jim crow laws, Northwest Junior High School Band Director Kevin Brown told an auditorium of students.

Last year, and in the years before that, Browns presentation wouldnt have happened.

We had meetings on diversity in the mornings and some things we could use in the classroom, said Brown.

That would be followed by an afternoon of more diversity and Martin Luther King Jr.-oriented professional development, just for teachers. The problem was that those teachers say it was often hard to apply what they learned when students returned the next day.

You'd want to but it didn't always fit right into place right away, said Brown.

So this year the district decided to just include the kids.

Every teacher created a new lesson from scratch today, said Northwest Junior High School Principal Dr. Gregg Shoultz.

That meant an assembly this morning, presentations and performances during the day and a diversity fair where students taught each other about other cultures.

Rather than just receive information about it, they took an active role in creating the information and teaching the information to each other, said Dr. Shoultz.

It meant more work for teachers like Kevin Brown, but he says as an educator, he jumped at the chance to teach about things like the rise of jazz music through the African-American culture, something that might not fit in to his regular lesson plan.

I think a lot of kids who wouldnt have thought about this day at all are engaged they're learning things about why were having this day and what the role plays. I think its a really unique opportunity to experience that and see what the day is about, said Brown.

All without having to worry about the normal day to day school work.

Since there was enough push back, the district says next year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be a normal holiday and the kids will be home. They say it was a lesson in getting the message out to let the community be a bigger part of the decision making process for planned celebrations like this one.
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