‘Undue stress’ for students: Hamilton school board wants Ontario to review school holidays

By Nathan Sager

Published March 29, 2022 at 7:39 pm

With Ramadan, Passover and Easter approaching, the public school board in Hamilton is calling on the province to review identified religious holidays.

The March 24 letter from board Chair Dawn Danko to Education Minister Stephen Lecce is spurred by a motion that Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) trustees adopted in late February. of the province of Ontario, which largely reflects the Christian calendar and other western traditions ”and that is“ creating a barrier for many students. ”

The board says it accommodates students who need to be excused for religious observances. But the letter notes that students are often expected to maintain a school workload.

“We have heard from our students about the challenges they face due when choosing to celebrate an important holy day not currently recognized in the school year calendar,” Danko wrote. “Though a religious and creed-based accommodation procedure is in place at HWDSB, students have indicated that an approved accommodation still maintains a school workload that students are required to make up upon their return to class.

“The choice of hindering one’s education by choosing to exercise the right to celebrate a religious holiday puts undue stress on our students. Recognizing important holy days of faiths beyond Christianity could not only alleviate the stress experienced by students, but also create a greater sense of belonging within the school community. ”

The section of the Education Act that covers the school year calendar has not been updated since 1990. Currently, it includes Thanksgiving Monday, 14 consecutive days for Christmas vacation and Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, will begin this weekend, on either Friday evening or Saturday morning (April 1 or 2). Good Friday is April 15, with Easter falling on April 17. Passover is from April 15 to 23.

“This review is an opportunity to update the school year calendar in a manner is inclusive to people of all religions and faiths,” the HWDSB’s Danko writes. “Canada’s diversity is one of its many strengths. By taking into consideration the religious and holy days. beyond the Christian calendar that is currently supported, schools can ensure a more inclusive environment for students and staff of all faiths and improve the experiences of students in public education. ”

The HWDSB is the lone school board in Southern Ontario that continues to technically require masks for staff and students unless they fill out a formal exemption form.

Lecce told HWDSB on March 18 that the requirement was ending. The board maintains the Ontario Ministry of Education guidelines for school COVID-19 safety measures are a minimum standard, based on a still-standing direction from August 2020, which means that a local board can add their own.

Hamilton’s mask extension is until April 1. Nova Scotia, which also has a Progressive Conservative government, is keeping theirs at least Easter weekend.

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