District school committees held a discussion on proposed changes to the school calendar at their combined meeting Wednesday night. Telegram & Gazette reports that about 35 people “packed” the meeting. According to The Metrowest Daily news, the majority were expressing displeasure at proposed changes.
In December, Superintendent Gobron shared proposed changes to the 2014-15 school calendar with the committees for their review. At that time, he requested the topic to be put on the January 29 meeting for discussion. He subsequently posted an explanatory memo and request for community feedback on the district website.
The critical change to the calendar would be eliminating Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Good Friday from the list of school holidays. Instead, attendance would be optional and teachers and coaches would be asked to not schedule tests or meets on those days.
Local media report that residents complained the changes would be a sign of disrespecting their religion. Comments included likening it to holding school on Christmas and Easter and concerns that in other towns the directives to respect the holidays don’t work. T&G reports:
[Local rabbi Rachel Gurevitz] said she has heard of students who stay out of school on those holidays being given large amounts of homework and athletes not being able to play because they missed practice.
MWDN reports that about a dozen people made comments. Most of them spoke against the changes while about another 15 audience members nodded heads in agreement. Some story quotes:
“We’ve been here before,” said longtime Northborough resident Jonas Goldenberg, who said he remembers when the decision was made to institute the holidays.
“It really feels like it’s moving back in time to (when) people weren’t sensitive to the religious beliefs of others.” . . .
Rachel Lipkin, a teacher in Southborough, said her fourth-grader son asked her to speak up because he felt it would be “really scary” to choose between school and his religion.
“The choice just isn’t a fair thing to put on young children,” she said – a comment echoed by several others.
The item wasn’t put to a vote last night. MWDN reports on next steps:
Susan Dargan, chairwoman of the Northborough-Southborough School Committee, suggested the three committees get their policy subcommittees together and try to make one unified recommendation to take back to their respective boards.
A date for that meeting was not set, but Dargan said it would be a public meeting that will be posted soon.
[Editor’s Note: The T&G article stated the Jewish holidays have been observed since the 70’s. My memory as a student here in the 80’s was that those holidays were optional, with most students attending. Superintendent Gobron confirmed that the change was made in the mid 90’s.]