Parents Again Ask Why Diwali Isn't a Bernards School Holiday
Mothers say their children want to know why other cultures and religions get to celebrate while they don't.
"We want to send the message to our kids that their culture is respected," said Sundari Arni, one of the two mothers who spoke before the board.
She said that children in the Indian community are asking why other children are able to celebrate their holidays have a day off, without having to make up their work at a later time.
Reena Singhvi pointed out that during September, two days were given off from school for the Jewish holidays. Yet she said that the township demographer's report from the 2010 census identified 9 percent of the local population as Indian, more than double identified as Jewish.
Arni noted that this year's school calendar also includes a day off for Martin Luther King's holiday.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful for all children in our township to understand each other's cultures?" Singhvi asked.
Singhvi said that Diwali, which she said is an Indian cultural holiday celebrated by those with many religious backgrounds, falls on November 13 this year.
About the same time last year, Singhvi said that more than 100 petitions and about 200 emails were submitted to school board members urging that Diwali be added as a day off on future school calendars.
She said the board never responded and deferred an answer.
Board subcommittee already had been planning to discuss the school calendar
Even before the parents spoke up, Board Member Bev Cwerner had reported that the board's policy committee had been planning to discuss future school calendars, with a focus on the increasingly late final day of school each June.
Cwerner said the last day of school for 2012-13 is scheduled for June 26, and on June 24 the following year.
Alternatives to be examined include consolidating breaks or starting earlier in September.
She said school officials are trying to come up with a way to try to determine the communities values on what they want in the school calendar. She said that some complaints have been received that late last day of schools are interfering with some students' summer activities, or work schedules.
Arni said that school districts in other nearby towns don't offer two full weeks off from school in February and again in April, but instead offer a week off in March and a few days of holiday around Presidents Day.
In the past, other members of the public had expressed support for the February holiday.