For years, from as early as the 1950s, New York City Public Schools have observed the Jewish holidays and accommodated the school schedule to ensure less absences and to assist the Jewish population of students. This adaptation to the Jewish holidays is rare in other parts of the country. In 2011, two students in Portland, Oregon created and signed a petition that was presented to the board of the Portland Public School System in order to address academic difficulty posed by the holiday, missing school and being forced to retake finals and exams at later dates. The students argued that because the absences were a result of religious observance the school system should recognize this. In 2003, in Chagrin, Ohio the decision close schools on Jewish holidays was based purely on the numbers of absences.
Schools in other places are closed for Jewish holidays due to the number of absences and the action to close schools. The question commonly asked is when and if accommodations will be made for the cultures and religions practiced in NYC in the future. “I think its important that a range of holidays are acknowledged, especially when we get Jewish holidays off and a whole week for Christmas, even though that is also partially New Years,” Lina Rahmani ’14.
With the recent passing of the Lunar holidays this topic has been on people’s minds. Appeals have been made in reference to the number of students present in school on the Lunar new year. Schools with high numbers of Asian students “have attendance rates as low as 20% on the holiday. Fifteen percent of city students are Asian” according to the Daily News. Lina reflected on how “one year, 40% of kids were missing from the ELA exams.
Mayor DeBlasio shared that the Lunar New Year, as well as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, Muslim holy days, can be expected to be days off. He shared, “It is complicated in terms of logistics, the school calendar and budget. But it’s something I want to get done in a reasonable time frame.”
BSGE is full of diversity and as a result our community is aware of many practiced religions and holidays. Students wish their friends “Xin Nian Kuai Le,” “Happy Rosh Hashannah,” “Happy Diwali.” Despite our size there is a wide range of religions and holidays celebrated by our students. As a result the importance of calendar changes can be recognized by looking within BSGE, at the students and families who will benefit. This is an issue that many people value.