Clayton County Schools considering making Juneteenth paid holiday

Clayton County Schools leaders are considering changing the 2021-2022 academic calendar to make next Juneteenth a paid holiday.

School board chairwoman Jessie Goree said she wants the day as an additional holiday and recommended that the academic calendar, which the board approved in late March, be revisited.

“We need to recognize that as a holiday,” Goree said at a recent board of education meeting. “And we definitely need to make sure that we have some type of activity through the school district that honors Juneteenth.”

Juneteenth is an annual celebration commemorating the day when enslaved Blacks in Texas learned they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln more than two years earlier. President Joe Biden made it a federal holiday this past June 17.

Atlanta Public Schools said earlier this month that it has made Juneteenth a paid holiday and businesses across the metro area, including several banks, have said they will follow suit or are considering such a move.

State workers, however, will not get the day off in 2022. While Gov. Brian Kemp signed a proclamation recognizing the holiday earlier this month, state laws allow for only 12 paid holidays. The state has reached its max of 12.

Clayton leaders did not say when the matter might come up before the board again.

Goree said celebrating Juneteenth also is important because of the sacrifice of Opal Lee.

Lee, who is now in her 90s, walked from Texas to Washington, D.C., in 2016 at the age of 89 to bring attention to efforts to make the celebration a national holiday.

“It will be well worth it to make it a paid holiday,” Goree said.