Aim to respect all faiths sparks calendar debate


Natalie Sadek

The school community continues in its efforts to respect those of all faiths through the discussion of religious holidays and their inclusion in the school calendar.

Natalie Sadek and Sean Neusch

After the discussion and debate taking place in the previous years, the school calendar continues to be in question for the 2018-2019 school year.

For the past several years, the community has been debating whether or not the district should take off religious holidays [which includes Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Good Friday].

“Every year the school committee is charged with approving the school calendar,” superintendent Christine Johnson said. “What generally happens is that the superintendent proposes or suggests a calendar and presents that to the school committee.”

In 1992, the school committee changed the calendar to be what is now known as the status quo, which includes certain religious holidays as days off. Ever since then, the debate for reverting the calendar has been in the forefront of the school committee’s discussions.

Last year, Johnson proposed three separate calendars for the next three school years in order to stimulate conversation and receive input from the community.

“I put a three year plan together, just to get the conversations going,” Johnson said. “This year was going to be status quo, next year was a calendar with and without the religious holidays, and the third year, which I knew was going to be incredibly controversial, was the one where we eliminated the vacations, and we had long weekends instead of the full week off. It was just to stimulate conversation and thought.”

Using online surveys, Johnson continues to gather opinions on possible calendars for the coming school years.

According to Johnson, the debate for a calendar without any religious holidays has been ongoing for several years. The overall goal of the change in the calendar is to respect all faiths in the community.

[Changing the school calendar] is not necessarily an opinion, but just a respect for the diversity that we have have the opportunity to be a part of everyday,” principal Dr. Sara Pragluski Walsh said. “So it’s very important for all of us who work in education to understand that we can’t just label or define someone’s culture or religious beliefs.”

To come to a conclusion on the 2018-2019 calendar, the school committee has decided to add an extra combined meeting this year. Taking place on October 25, it will be open for the public to attend and express their questions or concerns regarding the calendar vote. The meeting should move the committee closer to voting on the calendar, but the final decision could be made as late as April.