The Fairfax School Board voted on Thursday to adopt a schedule for the next school year that does not include a day off for more diverse vacations, but rather aims to “recognize, respect and honor the plurality of religious and cultural observances.” in the county.
The board of directors of the diverse school district of Virginia, with more than 188,000 students, voted for an “middle” school calendar option, deciding not to give students Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Eid and Diwali, but to officially recognize the four public holidays. with a range of other religious and cultural observances.
The calendar for the 2021-2022 academic year in Fairfax County will recognize 15 of these celebrations. It sets the first day of school for Monday 23 August 2021 and the last day for Friday 10 June 2022.
On recognized days, Fairfax County Public Schools prohibit scheduling tests, quizzes, field trips and other major school events.
The religious and cultural observances to be observed are as follows:
- Eid al-Adha;
- Rosh Hashanah;
- Yom Kippur;
- Los Muertos Day;
- Bodhi Day;
- Three Kings Day / Epiphany;
- Orthodox Christmas;
- Orthodox epiphany;
- Lunar New Year;
- Good Friday;
- Orthodox Good Friday / Last night of Passover;
- Eid al-Fitr.
Students would not be expected to study on these days, and tests and quizzes would be given before those days.
Employees of Virginia’s largest school system will be allowed to make up 16 hours of time they miss for religious or cultural observances. The school system will update its rules for the start of the school year which begins on July 1.
“The approach taken in developing this calendar is one of equity and inclusiveness,” said Ricardy Anderson, school board chair. “It aims to center fairness by raising our systems’ respect for religious and cultural observances.
“While this final schedule may not meet the goals of everyone in Fairfax County, it recognizes all religious and cultural observances where Fairfax County Public Schools have experienced above-average absences over the past five years. last years.”
A religious observances task force created by the school board worked for months to develop calendar options that included the various religious holidays.
“I appreciate all the time the community, school board and staff have devoted to ensuring our school calendar reflects the values of Fairfax County Public Schools,” said Scott Brabrand, School System Superintendent.
For the 2021-2022 school year, students will obtain:
Three days off at Thanksgiving – November 24-26;
Two weeks off for winter vacation – December 20-31;
One week off for spring break – April 4-8.
The school board said it had separated Good Friday from spring break.
Like previous calendars, statutory holidays and teachers’ workdays will be distributed evenly over the years.
The decision not to donate students for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Eid and Diwali – holidays recognized by members of the Jewish, Muslim and Hindu communities – did not please the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.
“We are deeply disappointed,” said group associate director Guila Franklin Siegel. “The incredible lack of cultural competence and the lack of empathy for the experience of minority faiths that we have seen throughout this process makes it clear that a great deal of education is still needed. “
Srilekha Palle, who was assigned to the task force, said she was disappointed with the decision taken but would not stop pushing for change.
“The fight is not over – we would like to regroup,” she told OMCP. “I mean, people were all upset yesterday, this meeting went on for a long time.”
Palle said many members of the task force felt the board was going to act on the recommendations they made. She called it “miscommunication”.
I think one of the reasons it bothers the religious task force is – the task force was asked to do this work, they were asked to sort of look at religious fairness, academic fairness. and come up with a plan, “she said.
“And okay it happened, there was a communication issue, from what I understand, where the school board thought we were just going to recommend,” Palle said. “But we were given the impression that ‘we’ll take your recommendations’, pretty much so there was a communication problem.”
According to a statement from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, the Association of United Hindu and Jain Temples of Metropolitan Washington, the Durga Temple of Virginia, the Hindu American Foundation, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, the McLean Islamic Center, the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation and the Rodef Shalom Temple. :
Today has been a difficult day for the religious communities in Fairfax County. As minority religious communities, we are united in our commitment to our families. As the school board has sought to divide us further, we have come together around this issue, strengthening our commitment to each other and to the equity of minority religious groups in Fairfax County. We will continue to hold the school board and the administration of FCPS accountable for ensuring that our communities are not disadvantaged by the decisions made today. We look forward to a clear affirmation statement that describes what, and how, FCPS will change and be held accountable for the fair treatment of students, staff and faculty from religious minorities.
Other community religious leaders also feel that the council’s choices do not go far enough.
“We don’t think the changes that have been introduced are significant changes at all,” said Guila Franklin Siegel, associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.
She believes that students, staff and teachers should have free time, not time that needs to be made up. Franklin Siegel cited hourly wage earners who lose money by leaving for religious holidays.
“We believe this change has to happen and it will happen, as it has happened in the counties in our area,” said Franklin Siegel.
Franklin Siegel said his organization – and the interfaith partners with whom they have joined to push for change – will continue to fight, now seeking to make the changes in the 2022-2023 school year schedule that has already started to be discussed by the school system and its board of directors.
“We will not stop until we achieve equity for all children in FCPS and all FCPS employees. “