Oct. 12, 2009 -- While Federal government offices in Washington, D.C. are closed for Columbus Day, students in Maryland, just a few miles away, have a full school day. What was once a guaranteed day off from work is now a gamble, with many schools and workplaces open on Columbus Day.
Columbus Day is not commemorated universally. Federal and state offices are closed, the United States Postal Service will not deliver mail, and many banks are shuttered.
But public schools in large cities like Los Angeles, Miami and Dallas are open, while in Washington, DC, New York City and Chicago they are closed
It has been a growing trend for more than 20 years. In 14-hundred and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue -- but that no longer means you have the day off.
In New York City, an estimated 30,000 parade goers lined Fifth Avenue, which was decked out in red, white and green for the city's Columbus Day parade.
Meanwhile, the city's subways and buses ran on a regular weekday schedule, since only a fraction of their riders had the day off from work.
History tells us Christopher Columbus first came ashore in the New World 1492, starting centuries of European exploration and settlement, and eventually leading to the creation of the United States.
Colorado was the first state officially to observe Columbus Day in 1905; in 1934 it became a federal holiday.
Since then Columbus Day has expanded beyond honoring Columbus the explorer. For many communities the day also serves as a time to celebrate the legacy and cultural heritage of Italians in America.
But Columbus and his legacy are not without controversy.
Teachers have discovered the complexity of teaching about him. They tell students about his groundbreaking visit to the Americas, but have to balance it by telling about his treatment of Native Americans.
James Kracht, a dean at Texas A&M College of Education and Human Development, acknowledges a shift in how Columbus' voyage to the New World is taught.
"You don't hear people using the word 'discovery' anymore like they used to. 'Columbus discovers America.' Because how could he discover America if there were already people living here?" Kracht told the Associated Press.
Fourth graders at the Fort Cherry Elementary in McDonald, Pa., put Christopher Columbus on trial this year. In their exercise Columbus was found guilty of thievery and misrepresenting the Spanish crown. The class sentenced Columbus to life in prison.
"In their own verbiage, he was a bad guy," their teacher, Laurie Crawford, told the Associated Press.
In Providence, R.I., Brown University students are off from classes today, but not for the Columbus Day Weekend.
Last April, the Brown faculty voted to eliminate the observance of Columbus Day on campus, renaming the second Monday in October "Fall Weekend."
The decision came after hundreds of students protested Columbus Day saying the explorer brutally treated Native Americans after landing in America.
Eliminating Columbus Day from the Brown University calendar has lead to some community backlash. Last Friday the Brown University College Republicans and local radio host John DePetro held a rally calling for the school to reinstate the holiday.
DePetro planned another rally for today on Brown's campus. On his Web site, DePetro called the university's decision an "insult to Italian-Americans" and says the school is comparing Christopher Columbus to Hitler.
The school's decision also upset the Mayor of Providence, David Cicilline. Mayor Cicilline is a 1983 graduate of Brown.
In a statement responding to the school's decision Mayor Cicilline said, "The decision to simply erase the celebration of an incredibly significant moment in world history and Italian-American culture for the sake of political correctness does just the opposite. As an Italian-American, I take particular offense to this decision."
Columbus Day Holiday? No Longer What it Was
Keith Dellagrotta, a Brown University senior and President of the College Republicans spoke to ABC News in the middle of a protest to reinstate Columbus Day at the University. He called the Columbus Day debate at Brown "political correctness gone awry
"Changing the name of the fall weekend does absolutely no good because now, instead of remembering Columbus Day for both his good and maybe some of his bad, we are now completely erasing it from history and now there's no more talk" he said. "There's no more dialogue."
The Associated Press Contributed to this story.