By Ryan Amante
Holidays are usually viewed as the best days on the calendar because students have a break from school. However, this break means so much more when families are celebrating traditions that are special to their culture. With upcoming modifications to the school calendar, elementary schools will no longer follow the same schedule as the high schools in the district. Students who attend an elementary school within the NHP-GCP district will now have time off from school for Lunar New Year and Diwali. This has the potential to devastate participating families because it prevents children from celebrating their culture and traditions together.
As of now, the Sewanhaka Central High School District is not planning to include these days as holidays in the school calendar.
“The Sewanhaka Central High School District adopted a calendar for the 2021-2022 school year prior to the NHP-GCP elementary district adopting their calendar. Currently, our calendar does not permit us to grant any other holiday observances without shortening or eliminating other recess periods. Currently there are no plans to introduce days off for these holidays,” said SCHSD Superintendent Dr. James Grossane.
It is extremely important that schools recognize these holidays as they provide students with an opportunity to explore their culture, bond with family, and strengthen their beliefs. With the expulsion of time off during these particular holidays, it impacts a family’s ability to come together and celebrate, since the majority of the day will be spent in school. In a scenario where students have time off from school, they could help their family prepare for festivities or spend more time with relatives that they may not see that often.
“It is absolutely crucial that students are allotted time to celebrate their heritage and explore their cultures...”
Another aspect of the lack of time off is the inconsistency of scheduling between age groups. For instance, a student attending high school could have a younger sibling in elementary school in the district, so the younger sibling would have the whole day off to spend with family while the older sibling is stuck in school. Parents of the students might also struggle with preparing for a celebration since they may have to find time to pick up their older child. These irregularities result in disunity and do not respect a family’s time to celebrate their culture’s traditions. In short, these discrepancies between school calendars could add a large amount of stress to what is supposed to be a day of celebration and reunion.
“I would change [the schedule] as [Diwali] is one of the most important holidays in the Hindu culture. If there is a break during New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, there should be a break for Hindu New Year as well. Therefore, the Hindu community as a whole would gladly accept a break on these days. This will make the community that celebrated Diwali feel more accepted in the NHP-GCP school district as well as the Sewanhaka Central High School District,” said freshman Ayush Patel.
“I feel that the high schoolers should have a day off as it allows us to spend more time with friends and family in Chinese New Year as Chinese New Year is a very important holiday. School should start a day earlier to allow students to have the day off for Chinese New Year,” said freshman Bright Xiao.
There is no denying that these inconsistencies between schools are concerning, and action should be taken as soon as possible to alter these changes either for next year’s calendar or the year after that. Students who attend one of the five high schools in the district should receive the same amount of time off as the students attending elementary schools. For students, time off for family and cultural exploration would be just as valuable as an average day of learning. It is absolutely crucial that students are allotted time to celebrate their heritage and explore their cultures.
Despite the fact that the SCHSD calendar does not have a plan to add these breaks, one solution would be to give students a day off for both Lunar New Year and Diwali by starting school two days earlier in September. This solution would not only allow students to maintain their cultural traditions, but it will also permit schools to meet the required number of days of education without removing an extreme amount of time from summer. The Herricks school district has already implemented this to give students a day off for Lunar New Year. This is not the only possible solution: another alternative would be to remove two days from February recess.
There are many possible answers to this conflict, but the first step in this fight for change is speaking up about issues that we are passionate about.