Howard Co. school board expands religious holiday status quo

WASHINGTON — The Howard County school board has decided not to drop Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur from its holiday calendar, choosing instead to expand the religious holidays it observes.

Rejecting an option that would have kept schools open on the Jewish High Holidays, the school board voted Thursday night to also give students off days to observe Diwali, Eid and the Lunar New Year.

To create extra days off for students to observe religious and cultural celebrations, officials might shuffle professional development days for teachers with the option of taking personal leave.

Discussion among board members also raised the possibility of cutting days from what some characterized as a lengthy “spring break.” Staff members will examine options that later will be presented to the board.

The move to accommodate observances of additional religious holidays only applies to the 2016-17 school year while studies are conducted.

Numbers of area school systems have been making adjustments related to observing religious holidays.

 Anne Arundel County Public Schools recently decided to open schools on Rosh Hashanah in 2016 for the first time in more than a decade. Teachers aren’t allowed to give tests and exams on that day or any other day of “major religious observances” such as Eid al-Adha and Yom Kippur.

Montgomery County Public Schools voted in November to remove religious labels from school holidays. But it also voted to add a professional day to give students the day off on the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Fairfax County Schools have a calendar that mostly reflects federal holidays. But, the system “has a responsibility to make reasonable accommodations so that individuals can pursue their own personal religious obligations,” its website states.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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