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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

St. Paul School District Set to Schedule Around Muslim and Jewish Holidays

In 2023-24, a committee of the St. Paul Public Schools will propose arranging lessons around key Muslim and Jewish holidays in order to create a “more inclusive” schedule.

Taking days off throughout the school year means a shorter summer break, but more Minnesota school districts are seeing the value in honoring additional religious holidays.

“I believe people do feel like you notice them when you think about their holidays, too,” said Craig Anderson, a St. Paul district administrator and calendar committee co-chair.

Schools in the United States have traditionally planned classes around significant federal holidays, including an extended vacation around Christmas. The opening day of school in St. Paul and many other metro areas was postponed last autumn to avoid Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

Some regions also have a day off to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the conclusion of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Although St. Paul hasn’t been one of them, the district does allow religious absences.

According to school attendance records from last Monday’s Eid, nearly all Muslim kids remained home to celebrate.

The overall absence rate in St. Paul was 28 percent, up from 20 percent the day before.

In Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, 6% of kids were excused from school for religious reasons.

RAVE schools, like St. Paul, planned for Rosh Hashanah this year, but not Eid.

By email, spokesperson Tony Taschner stated, “We understand the many cultures within our community and accept that our calendars do not reflect all ethnic festivals or significant anniversaries as days with no school.”

RAVE intends to start school after Labor Day, as required by law unless a district is undergoing a major construction project, and to end no later than two weeks into June. With days off for the major holidays, teachers union conventions, winter and spring breaks, and possible bad weather cancellations, there is insufficient time to achieve the state’s necessary minimums for days and hours of teaching.

“Even if you start school the week before Labor Day, your options for scheduling around holidays are restricted,” Taschner said, “but religious holidays will continue to be addressed as part of the committee process.”

St. Paul will hold courses on Rosh Hashanah next school year. Although Eid is on a Saturday, St. Paul students will get the prior Friday off — not for the holiday, but because that Friday in April is traditionally a district off day.

The major modification will take place the next school year. Anderson said his group would petition the school board later this year to adopt a schedule for 2023-24 that includes no school on Rosh Hashanah or Eid al-Fitr.

“The superintendent has asked us to be more inclusive, and the community has asked us to be more inclusive,” he added, noting that Juneteenth is now a holiday in the district.

The Minneapolis school board adopted three-year calendars in February that include Jewish and Muslim holy days. There will be no school until at least 2024-25 when Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, or Eid al-Fitr fall on a weekday.

Ira Jordain, a board member, objected to the notion, claiming that classrooms grow hot in June and that a longer school year meant a later start on employment and internship applications.

The remainder of the board, on the other hand, stated that it would encourage attendance and make the school more hospitable to religious minorities.

“I was just extremely pleased when I saw that choice,” Sharon El-Amin said during the meeting, “being a Muslim, having Muslim family and friends, and simply being able to be included in the calendar.” “It was simply incredibly nice to feel like we were include the families we’re helping.”

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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