New York City will become the largest school district in the nation to recognize Muslim observances Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as holidays on the official school calendar, announced Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña on Wednesday, March 4 from P.S./I.S. 30 in Bay Ridge, where 36 percent of students were absent the last time Eid al-Adha fell on a school day.
One of those students was Farzana Ali, an eighth grader that, de Blasio said, had never missed a day of school in her life until Eid.
“We made a pledge to families that we would change our school calendar to reflect the strength and diversity of our city,” said de Blasio, calling the move a common-sense change. “Hundreds of thousands of Muslim families will no longer have to choose between honoring the most sacred days on their calendar or attending school.”
During the 2015-2016 school year, public schools will close in observance of Eid al-Adha on Thursday, September 24. Starting in 2016, summer schools close in observance of Eid al-Fitr.
“We are committed to having a school calendar that reflects and honors the extraordinary diversity of our students,” said Fariña, stressing that the new days off will inspire lessons on religious tolerance both in and out of the classroom. “Muslim students and their families who observe Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha shouldn’t have to choose between an instructional day and their religious obligations.”
Under the chancellor’s regulations, students are allowed an excused absence from school for their religious and cultural observances. However, that excused absence can still come at the expense of missing critical lessons, exams or projects.
Locally, Councilmember Vincent Gentile and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams stood in support of the switch up.
“I am proud to represent one of the largest Muslim populations in New York City and today I commend Mayor de Blasio for making good on his promise for New York City public schools to observe two of the most sacred Muslim holy days,” said Gentile. “Both days have been added to the New York City public school schedule in a change that respects the diversity of our city.”
“Brooklyn has a proud and growing Muslim community, enriching neighborhoods from Bay Ridge to Boerum Hill,” said Adams. “Their culture and traditions are woven into the beautiful patchwork quilt that is our borough, where we know that celebrating our diversity makes us stronger.”
The New York City Department of Education now joins school districts in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Jersey in recognizing Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
The agency will continue to closely monitor spikes in absenteeism over holidays as it works towards its commitment to serve the needs of all students.