Opting for an Inclusive School Calendar

Michelle Wang, Staff Writer

The issue of which holidays to recognize has plagued school systems and policymakers across the country. Schools have been compromising to maintain the full 180 days of school while recognizing diverse holidays that are celebrated across their student body. However, in Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), which serve a diverse range of students, holidays in many distinct cultures do not receive recognition. 

BCPS currently celebrates Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur and Roshannah. The calendar includes days off for students on these holidays. Conversely, other holidays such as Lunar New Year, Eid al-Fitr and Diwali, are not recognized in the same manner. These holidays are amongst the most significant in their respective cultures. For example, Lunar New Year, typically celebrated in east-Asian countries, is one of the most significant holidays in Chinese culture. It is celebrated by around 3.8 million Americans and is marked by festivities, worship and a chance to visit family members. However, Lunar New Year falls on February 1st, 2022 which happens to be a school day, which prevents many students from participating in these traditions.  A large portion of BCPS students celebrate these holidays; for  example, a county report found that in the 2020-2021 school year, 7.3% of all BCPS  students are of Asian descent. This accounts for over 8,000 students, with many celebrating diverse holidays in their respective cultures such as Lunar New Year, Ramadan and Diwali.

For Muslim students, Eid-al Fitr  marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.  It is celebrated by a day full of prayers, feasts, and family gatherings. Asking students to attend school on such an important day undermines religious and cultural diversity.  School systems should not strip students of the customs that make up their culture. 

Hassan Farah, a junior at Dulaney said that, “I’d love the opportunity to visit family and just celebrate our culture for a day… In the past few years, missing school for Eid has actively affected my Eid day to be more stressful as I can’t feel fully immersed in a holiday when I know I’ll be struggling to play catch-up for the classes I’ve missed.”

Even more worrisome, in 2022, Eid al Fitr falls on May 2nd, which happens to be the date of several AP exams. Asking students to choose between an important test date and one of the most significant holidays of the year should not be an option. School systems must do better in respecting cultures which comes in the form of recognizing significant holidays from a diverse range of cultures and embracing those who celebrate them. When creating school schedules, educators and policymakers should be cognizant of the value of these holidays, and accommodate them by implementing days off. 

In fact, other counties across Maryland have already opted for these changes. In 2016, Howard County Public Schools voted to extend days off for Roshannah, Yom Kippur, Eid al- Adha, Lunar New Year, and Diwali. In addition, Montgomery County Public Schools has acknowledged the importance of recognizing culturally significant holidays. In their 2021-2022 calendar, they have included professional days for teachers and no school for students on February 1st and May 2nd: Lunar New Year and Eid al-Fitr respectively. 

With its increasing student body diversity, Baltimore County is behind in the game. Modifying the calendar to be inclusive of more religions should be an indisputable component of diversity.

Allowing for religious and cultural inclusivity causes students to feel valued. It is important to recognize these holidays to promote acceptance towards these cultures, embrace diversity, and promote inclusiveness for the distinct cultures that make up the Baltimore County student body. It eliminates the need for students to choose between their attendance records or celebrating culturally and religiously important holidays with their families. 

This is an important issue, not of arbitrary holidays, but of  fundamental respect and fairness to students. Baltimore County, along with other school systems, should not have to compromise cultures for the sake of status quo.