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Why We Don’t Get School Off for Every Holiday

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Joel Barlow High School closes for most Jewish and Christian holidays throughout the year because the citizens in the easton-redding school district asked for the schools to do so (since there are a majority of students who celebrate those holidays). Mrs. Desmarais is a Vice Principal at Joel Barlow High School, and has been familiar with these processes for years now. “…there are elected representatives from the town’s citizens… and it truly is a democratic process”, she said. “… For instance, some districts like to have Veterans day off, and others prefer Columbus day… The reason we don’t have more holidays off for school, is because the people didn’t ask for it.”

Devon is a student at Joel Barlow, whose family is Hindu, and whose religious holidays aren’t celebrated by the school. “I wish that there we got more school days off for holidays, because the more holidays the better… I [personally], am not very religious, so I don’t really care the reason why we get school off, I just want school to be closed.”

Devon’s mother, however, is much more religious than he is, and had a little bit more to say. “[If we got Diwali off] we could as a whole meet, because it’s a festival where you… have sweets, families come over to each other’s houses, and they have fireworks… it’s like New Year’s, like a huge celebration, so… it would definitely help us with families,” she said. “Like, for example, the cousins (who live in India) have off, so I could have them do something together here, or over there—but we can’t, because [her kids] are going to school.”

But all isn’t lost for those who do practice less popular religions, according to Mrs. Desmarais.. “All religious holidays are excused. So if you are a part of a religion whose holiday falls on a certain day, your parents can call in and you can have the day off,” she said. “… It’s the non-religious holidays that students can’t simply stay home for, such as Columbus day—unless, of course, the people asked for that day to be a holiday.”

Ben Wunder, a Jewish senior at Joel Barlow, replied to Mrs. Desmarais’s statements. “I think it sounds fair,” he said. “If we can get school days excused for visiting colleges, students should be excused for their religious holidays too.”

Desmarais stated the reason that these schools don’t just have school every day, and allow people to be out with no consequences on every holiday. “It would be a logistical nightmare,” she said. “A large problem, is that, if you don’t know who’s coming in, and who’s not—if say, all the teachers took the same day off for a holiday, we wouldn’t have enough teachers to supervise all the students.”

Additionally, Mrs. Desmarais brought the law into the equation. “[That state law] requires that we have to be in session for a certain number of days, and the requirement is that students need to be present on those days,” she said. 

Additionally, having certain holidays “standardized” as definite school holidays, rather than just letting students and staff leave whenever they please allows for much easier planning on the behalf of school administrators and teachers. Knowing that people are much more likely to be in school every day by giving them designated holidays means that things like professional development days can be planned with much more confidence in attendance than if otherwise.

“Standardizing” school holidays across the state is also helpful, as it synchronises holidays across multiple board of ed regions. As a result, parents who teach at one school can stay at home the same days as their kids, even if they go to different schools in different regions.

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Why We Don’t Get School Off for Every Holiday