Jericho Schools Discuss Days Off

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The Syosset School District’s recent decision to recognize certain Hindu and Muslim festivals is making waves on both a local and national level, prompting other communities to discuss making changes to their school calendars. At a Jericho Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Oct. 20, the board addressed requests that the district consider adopting the holidays Diwali, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as official school holidays.

“Everything is possible, but it presents a major challenge to the school calendar,” said Hank Grishman, superintendent of the Jericho School District.

In response to the desire to recognize such holidays, Grisham and Bill Ferro, president of the Jericho Board of Education, explained that the district would have to assess its current 186-day school calendar before allowing for any additional holidays. Last year, the district voted to recognize the Lunar New Year as an official school holiday, but it was the result of years of discussion.

“There is a process involved and we like to include all stakeholders—community, PTA, parents, staff, administration—and discuss how additional days impact everyone. When we look at future calendars, we would like to have a plan in place. We like to keep an open exchange. This district and board will always listen,” said Ferro.

The board did not completely banish the idea of recognizing the three holidays, asserting that the discussion will be an ongoing one and is expected to be revisited at future meetings.

“Everything is possible, but it presents a major challenge to the school calendar,” added Grishman. If there was to be a reconfiguration of the calendar, certain days that students have had off in the past, such as Election Day, the day before Thanksgiving or the days attached to Memorial Day Weekend, may have to be sacrificed.

Reactions among community members and meeting attendees was mixed. While people would be happy to see these holidays to get the recognition they deserve, many are also concerned about the impact this would have on existing holiday breaks.

Both Grishman and Ferro praised the level of diversity that exists within Jericho schools, hoping to continue a legacy of understanding and acceptance among vastly different cultures within the district.

“The district has made sure that we have parent education, student education, translation services, and have taken other extremely aggressive actions to make sure that we have programs and education in place so our school district, with great sensitivity, could welcome our changing populations,” said Grishman.

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Nicole Lockwood is the former editor of the Syosset Jericho Tribune and New Hyde Park Illustrated News.

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