In the comments for another post, a reader questioned the District's calendar policy and how breaks and holidays are determined. I thought I'd share my most recent response here, in case others have wondered.
First, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Passover is “overlooked”. I'm told that Passover has been considered by the Calendar Committee every year. The creation of the District calendar is more complicated than most people realize.
Generally speaking, each year’s school calendar has to account for statutory holidays first, and then account for recess periods that the community has come to expect (e.g., in Ridgewood we are used to a full week in December, a full week in February and a full week in April)…all while ensuring the calendar starts out with 182 school days scheduled for students and 187 work days scheduled for teachers.
The challenge with Passover is that its dates typically vary from late March to mid- to late April. The Calendar Committee tries to avoid scheduling the “Spring Recess” week too close to, or too far away from, the “Winter Recess” week in February. Generally it looks to schedule the Spring Recess as close to eight weeks after the Winter Recess as possible to provide the best balance of rest and instructional continuity for the students. The challenges they face doing that are: 1) not closing school on dates around this time when state tests are typically administered (normally sometime in April) and not closing school the weeks before testing so that students have the best opportunities to be prepared; and 2) trying to make sure that schools are open on the annual school election date so that Village residents who can only take vacations during the school recess week are not forced to miss the election or vote with absentee ballots.
Days off for Passover might also be scheduled outside of Spring Recess, but that would add additional length to the overall school year. Depending on who you talk to, the important Passover celebration days may be the first day, the first two days, or the first two and last two days. Using this year as an example, that could have pushed the students’ last day of school to Friday, 6/24 (which creates conflicts for many families of graduating seniors who want to leave for vacations), to Monday, 6/27 or to Tuesday, 6/28. The later in June schools must be open: 1) the more “hot summer days” we may have to deal with in classrooms; 2) the more we will interfere with families’ vacation plans and students’ summer job and/or summer school plans; and 3) the smaller our “cushion” will be in the event we have a large number of inclement weather closures during the year and we need to stay open longer at the end of the year.
Some people feel that scheduling Good Friday off and not scheduling Passover off is unfair. Whether it’s “right” or “wrong”, Good Friday is a statutory holiday in New Jersey.
If we had fewer educational challenges, and more flexibility, to schedule our Spring Recess where we wanted to, I believe Passover would be a priority for scheduling Spring Recess in Ridgewood. The district has a history of scheduling school closures for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when they fall on school days, even when it results in single days off in the middle of the week.
Finally, Regulation No. 8810 (Religious Holidays) in the Board Policy Manual (on the District website) specifically addresses the rules for homework and tests/quizzes around religious holidays. If a parent feels that teachers are not following the Regulation, they should bring it to the Principals’ attention.
Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: email@example.com