Local pols want schools closed for Lunar New Year

Local elected officials are calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to speak with the Department of Education in regards to adding the Lunar New Year to the list of official holidays during which public schools are closed.

Assemblymember William Colton, Councilmember Mark Treyger, Councilmember David Greenfield and District Leader Nancy Tong cover school districts with high populations of Asian-Americans, according to Colton’s office, which said that the schools often have absentee rates as high as 80 percent during the holiday.

“It is wrong to force families to choose whether to celebrate a family tradition and be marked absent from school,” said Colton. “Mayor de Blasio promised that Lunar New Year would be made an official school holiday. This has been authorized by both the state and city legislatures and the time to effect it is now.”

The Asian-American population in New York City neighborhoods has significantly grown over the past few decades, according to Colton’s office. Currently, 15 percent of all public school students are of Asian-American descent. Additionally, in the area including Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights and Sunset Park, Asian-American students make up over 50 percent of the school population, said Colton.

Colton and Treyger, both former New York City public school teachers, wrote a letter to de Blasio, urging him to work with the DOE to add Lunar New Year to the school calendar as an official holiday.

“Asian-American students who want to have good attendance records and who are diligent students should be allowed to celebrate this important cultural holiday with their families without being penalized,” said Treyger.

Tong, the only Asian-American elected official in Brooklyn, agreed.

“The Department of Education needs to add Lunar New Year to the school calendar as an official holiday,” she said. “This issue is about being inclusive of the Asian-American community and giving this community the respect that it deserves. It’s not fair to parents and their school children to have them choose between celebrating their cultural heritage and attending school. Now is the time to finally make Lunar New Year an official school holiday on which public schools will be closed.”

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