Superintendent Joshua Starr is recommending that the Montgomery County school board consider removing the names of Jewish holidays from the 2015-2016 school calendar, although county public schools would still close on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
In a memo to the board, Starr said the district closes schools on those holidays because there usually are a significant number of student and staff absences and that the reason is “an operational one only.”
“As we have discussed in the past, decisions about closing schools on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, specifically, are not based on honoring or favoring a particular, religious, cultural, or ethnic group,” Starr wrote. He also recommended removing the listing of the Maryland State Education Association Convention, scheduled for October 16, 2015, although schools would remained closed on that day as well.
Starr also provided to the board other options for the calendar including continuing to list the Jewish holidays and the convention day or listing those days as well as noting that Sept. 23 is the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
In September, the Council on American-Islamic Relations lobbied the school system to recognize Eid al-Adha, which falls on the same day as Yom Kippur on the 2015-2016 school calendar.
“I have considered the concerns raised by some representatives of the Muslim community about the desire to recognize Muslim holidays and close schools on [the Muslim holidays] Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, or at least have these days noted on the school calendar,” Starr wrote in his memo.
Starr wrote staff is monitoring the impact of the Muslim holidays on school attendance, but so far there have been no significant attendance issues on these holidays, according to the memo.
Starr also recommended that closures for staff professional days for the 2015-2016 school year take place on Nov. 2, Jan. 25 and April 4. The last day of school for students would be June 17, 2016, while the last day for teachers would be June 20, 2016.
The board is expected to review the calendar options on Tuesday.
Here’s how the calendar recommended by Starr would look: