New MCPS calendar might leave off some holiday names

WASHINGTON — Proposed changes to the Montgomery County Public Schools’
calendar are sure to get a lot of attention at a school board meeting Tuesday.

Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr is proposing three
options for next school year.

The first, which Starr recommends, would remove references to Rosh Hashanah
and Yom Kippur, while still closing schools on those days.

Option two would keep the current calendar, and the third option would add a
mention of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, which in 2015 happens to be on the
same day as Yom Kippur.

“I have considered the concerns raised by some representatives of the Muslim
community about the desire to recognize Muslim holidays and close schools on
Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, or at least have these days noted on the school
calendar,” Starr wrote in a memo to the Board of Education detailing the
proposals.

“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. The decision to close on
these days – originally made in the 1970s – has been based on the experience
of significant student and staff absenteeism impacting the school system’s
ability to continue an instructional program and operate safe schools,” Starr
added.

Last year, the Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations
(CAIR-MD) began an “Equality for Eid” campaign, including a petition drive, to
urge Montgomery County Public Schools to close on Eid al-Fitr as well as Eid
al-Adha.

Now, CAIR-MD is urging Starr to add Muslim holidays to the school calendar
without removing other holidays celebrated by other faiths. The group is also
calling on parents to contact the school board ahead of Tuesday’s meeting to
share their opinion on the issue, as well as attend the meeting itself.

Rabbi Batya Steinlauf with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater
Washington is also co-chair of the Faith Community Working Group, which is a
committee of the County Executive’s Faith Community Advisory Council in
Montgomery County.

“We’ve actually been discussing issues of the school calendar and its
relationship to the faith community for some time. It’s important. It means
a lot to people. When faith communities feel they are not represented it’s
very painful. So I really appreciate that Superintendent Starr is paying
attention to this and the school board wants to vote on it,” she told WTOP.

But Steinlauf said she has concerns with all three options being presented to
the school board.

“One way to address it is simply remove the names of all the faith community
holidays,” she suggested, including Christian holidays.

The school board is scheduled to take up the issue during its meeting,
starting at about 12:50 p.m. Tuesday.

Click here to read Superintendent Starr’s
proposals to the school board:

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