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The School Committee at its regular meeting Jan. 26 heard a first read of recommendations for the school calendar for the next three school years. 

Superintendent Elizabeth C. Homan recommended no changes for 2023-2024 with regard to religious holidays on which classes now are not scheduled. She also presented snapshots of ongoing research that might guide decisions in the future.

A calendar committee – School Committee members Bill Hayner and Paul Schlichtman, union head Julianna Keyes, two staffers and three parents – collected responses from Arlington Public Schools staffers and families. Members of each group were asked what they would do if classes were to be held on certain religious holidays going forward – days on which classes are not held.

The survey says ...

Of the 410 employees responding to the survey, 48 said they would not come to work if classes were to be held on Rosh Hashanah, while 47 said they would not work on Yom Kippur, and 127 said they would not work on Good Friday.

Of the 892 families responding to the survey, 160 said they would not send their children to school if classes were held on Rosh Hashanah, 161 would not send them on Yom Kippur and 75 would not send them on Good Friday.

A pie chart included in the presentation shows that 37.5 percent of the responding families said they perceived a slightly positive or positive benefit of changing district policy to instead hold classes on those holidays in future. 

Homan suggested that the reason may be that, as things stand, some working parents must make -- and pay for -- special arrangements for child care or, alternatively, take time off from work to care for their children.

A parent concern

One parent was quoted as saying, “Our jobs do not give us these days off, and we get limited PTO [paid time off]. Finding alternate child care for three children for these days is extremely difficult, and we don't have family around.”

In contrast, a staff member commented, “Having established the Jewish High Holy Days as no-school days for years now, and with the increased incidence of anti-Semitism in our schools and nation at large, [potentially] deciding now to reverse course and have school on those days feels tone deaf.”

Homan said that the district plans inquiries in two areas. One would be to assess the connection between early-year absenteeism for low-income families and the impact of early days off on absenteeism. The other would be to look into the financial feasibility of providing child care for low-income families on the three holidays mentioned.

Toward the end of the discussion, committee members Schlichtman and Jane Morgan commended Homan and Elizabeth Diggins, administrative assistant to the committee and the superintendent, on the improved appearance and clarity of the proposed calendar for the upcoming school year. 

The matter is likely to come back to the School Committee later this year for a second read -- and a possible vote.  

Watch the Jan. 26 meeting on ACMi:

Read the documents related to this agenda item >>


This news summary by YourArlington assistant editor and education reporter Judith Pfeffer was published Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.

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