Next school year, public school students in Arlington will not have school on two Jewish holidays in September, the School Committee decided Thursday.
After about a half-hour of debate, the committee selected “Draft 2” as next year’s school calendar in a 5-2 vote.
Committee member Leba Heigham, who voted in favor of “Draft 2,” said she understands that days off can present hardships for working parents. However, she said that she felt “Draft 2” was the better calendar for student learning and that it helped create more of an “inclusive school environment.”
“It’s always challenging,” she said of choosing the calendar.
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur
In “Draft 2,” students do not have school on Rosh Hashanah (Monday, Sept. 17) and Yom Kippur (Wednesday, Sept. 26), and the school year ends Friday, June 21.
The committee’s other option, “Draft 1,” had school on the two Jewish High Holy Days in September, and, therefore, the school year would have ended two days earlier, Wednesday, June 19.
Committee member Cindy Starks, who voted against the “Draft 2” calendar, along with chairwoman Kirsi Allison-Ampe, said she feared that it did not provide enough wiggle room in terms of snow days.
“This pushes us into a very precarious place,” she said of the June 21 end date. “If we use all five snow days, which we have in the past, we’re putting our district in the position where we’d have to eat into vacation or go to Saturday school.”
The district cannot move the first day of school back before Labor Day due to contractual obligations. This year, students did not have school on Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur fell on a weekend. They will get out Wednesday, June 20.
Even when the district has school on religious holidays, teachers, staff and students are allowed to take the day off without penalty.
Allison-Ampe said committee members received a lot of emails on the issue prior to Thursday’s meeting. She said the emails were fairly split.
Allison-Ampe proposed an amendment to the “Draft 2” calendar where students would go to school on Rosh Hashanah but not on Yom Kippur. Her proposed amendment was defeated 6-1.
At the beginning of Thursday’s meeting, parents filled the School Committee Room on the sixth floor of to discuss redistricting due to a flyer (not from the district or School Committee) that was left on their doorsteps earlier in the day.
They were informed that redistricting was not on the agenda and told to come back to the Community Relations Subcommittee meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 31, in the School Committee Room.
The Redistricting Committee is scheduled to give a report at that meeting.