Signing off his monthly PBS Utah Governor’s Monthly News Conference on Thursday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox effused about the state’s observance of Juneteenth, which the Utah Legislature designated as an official state holiday earlier this year.

“I’m going to be speaking at a Juneteenth event on Saturday up in Ogden, one that’s been around for many, many years. I know there are several Juneteenth events all weekend long. We’re really excited. This is a first. We’ve celebrated it but not as an official state holiday. I want to congratulate the Legislature for getting that passed,” he said, referring to the passage of HB238.

Observances are planned in a number of communities as well as college campuses in the state but the timing of the passage of HB238, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, happened after many school districts had established their calendars for 2022.

What is Juneteenth? And how is it celebrated?

That means for some school employees, Monday will be a regular work day this year but for subsequent years, district school boards will consider adding the Juneteenth holiday to the calendar, officials said.

“We honor Juneteenth, however, our calendar was set before (back in 2020) it became a state holiday. We are evaluating future employee contracts and calendars as we move forward but we’re unable to adjust those contracts in such a short turnaround for the current calendar,” Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley wrote in an email.

Davis School District, meanwhile, will observe the holiday on Monday, noting it was declared a federal holiday in 2021, and a state holiday earlier this year.

“The Davis School District Board of Education and the Davis School District superintendency formally recognize that state holiday as well, and accordingly, all district offices will be closed Monday, June 20,” a message to employees states.

Canyons School District’s calendar had also been approved before final passage of the law on March 4. Cox signed the bill on March 24 and the law went into effect on May 4.

“As a result, the day was not included in the employee contracts and established workday calendars for this year,” said spokesman Jeff Haney.

The district plans to mark the state holiday with graphics on its website and social media pages, he said. “Employees are scheduled to be in the office, and students in summer learning programs will attend their classes,” Haney said.

Canyons Superintendent Rick Robins plans to propose calendars to the district school board in future years, starting in 2023, marking the holiday, Haney said.

Now that Juneteenth is a national holiday, what would it take for it to become a legal holiday in Utah?

Jordan School District spokeswoman Sandy Riesgraf said the district’s calendar was set for 2022 when the Legislature passed the Juneteenth bill.

“We will however be reviewing it for future calendars. There are other state and federal holidays we do not observe, but we will review this in the future,” she said.

At least one school district will not be adding an additional holiday to its 2023 calendar. On Wednesday evening, the Emery County School District school board voted to approve its 2023 school calendar without a day off for Juneteenth.

Neither Hollins nor Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, who carried HB238 in the Utah Senate, where it passed unanimously, responded to requests for comment.

Juneteenth could become Utah’s newest state holiday

The University of Utah encountered a similar timing issue, thus the holiday was not included in its academic calendar for the summer.

“Because the holiday was set after the summer semester calendar, we’ve given faculty the flexibility to decide whether to hold class. But we’ve told them not to penalize students who don’t attend class on Monday,” said U. spokeswoman Rebecca Walsh.

Otherwise, U. employees will observe a paid holiday on Monday.

Next year, and going forward, classes will not take place on the holiday, according to a communication to the university community.

“University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics operations will continue as scheduled to ensure continuity of patient care,” the community notification states.

View Comments

Ogden School District plans to suspend all academic programs and summer camps in observance of the Juneteenth holiday but summer meals will be provided on Monday, its website states.

Juneteenth will also be observed by the Salt Lake City School District as part of its summer efficiency schedule, which includes four-day weeks with all schools and district facilities closed either on a Friday or a Monday. Exceptions to the schedule include the district’s child nutrition program, Horizonte Instructional and Training Center, and essential construction projects.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 after Congress approved the designation and the legislation was signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Juneteenth commemorates the arrival of federal troops in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed. This was 212 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.