A St. Paul Public Schools committee will propose scheduling classes around important Muslim and Jewish holidays in 2023-24 as it looks to build a “more inclusive” calendar.
Taking days off during the school year means a shorter summer break, but more Minnesota school districts are finding value in recognizing additional holy days.
“I think people do feel like you see them when you consider their holidays, too,” said Craig Anderson, a St. Paul district administrator and co-chair of the calendar committee.
Historically, US schools have scheduled around the major federal holidays, including a long break around Christmas. Last fall, St. Paul and many others in the metro moved the first day of school to avoid Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.
Some districts also typically take a day off for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. St. Paul hasn’t been one of them, but the district does excuse absences for religious observance.
School attendance data for this year’s Eid, which was last Monday, suggests virtually all Muslim students stayed home to celebrate.
In St. Paul, the overall absence rate was 28 percent, up from 20 percent the previous Monday.
In Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, 6 percent of students took an excused absence for religious observance.
Like St. Paul, RAVE schools planned around Rosh Hashanah this year but not Eid.
“We recognize the diverse cultures within our community and acknowledge that our calendars do not reflect all cultural holidays or significant dates as days with no school,” spokesman Tony Taschner said by email.
RAVE aims to start school after Labor Day – required by law unless a district has a large construction project – and finish no more than two weeks into June. With days off for the dominant holidays, teachers union convention, winter and spring break and potential bad -weather cancellations, that leaves little room to meet the state’s required minimums for days and hours of instruction.
“Even if you start school the week before Labor Day, the options to schedule around holidays are very limited,” Taschner said, “but (religious holidays) will continue to be considered as part of the committee process.
Next school year, St. Paul will hold classes on Rosh Hashanah. Eid falls on a Saturday, but St. Paul students will have the preceding Friday off – not for the holiday, but because the district usually has an off day that Friday in April ..
Later this year, Anderson said, his committee will ask to the school board to approve a 2023-24 calendar with no school on either Rosh Hashanah or Eid al-Fitr.
“The superintendent has asked us to be more inclusive, and the community has asked us to be more inclusive,” he said, noting that the district recently made Juneteenth a holiday.
The Minneapolis school board in February approved three years of calendars that recognize key Jewish and Muslim holy days. When Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur or Eid al-Fitr fall on a weekday, there will be no school through at least 2024-25.
Board member Ira Jordain balked at the idea, saying classrooms get hot in June and a longer school year means a late start on job and internships.
But the rest of the board said it would promote attendance and make school more welcoming to members of religious minorities.
“I was just really excited when I saw that option, being a Muslim, having Muslim families and friends and just being able to be included in the calendar,” Sharon El-Amin said during the meeting. like we are being inclusive of the families that we are serving. ”