For more than a year, parents and some students who are Indian-American have attended Board of Education meetings with the persistent request that school officials make Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, into a day off from school so that their children might fully partake of the holiday.
Monday's meeting, the annual reorganization of the school board, was no exception. One parent, Rippi Karda, told the board about how her daughters' enjoyment of a family-oriented day was hampered by their worry about showing up at school the next day without having completed the work that their classmates have done.
Karda said she explained that the school does not require students to do homework on the day of a religious holiday. Diwali this year fell in November.
Still, she said her elementary school student asked her what would happen when she had not practiced her words in class or was prepared in other ways for school, as were the other children.
During Monday's meeting, Board Member Beverly Cwerner reported the board's policy committee will be looking at starting the school year earlier, and ending earlier in future school years, as well as reviewing such issues as a request to add the Indian holiday of Diwali to the school calendar.
And even before Karda spoke, two other parents, Michele Cappola and Karen Gray, had made comments on the issues of school holidays.
Cappola said that although she respects those who want to practice their religions, she said the district should stop scheduling days off for individual religious holidays. She said she herself would be willing to give up holidays such as a day off for Good Friday.
She later said that she specifically was referring to all religious holidays, not just Good Friday.
Gray said she wanted to raise the idea of a "floating religious holiday" that students could observe as appropriate with their families.
Karda, who lives in The Hills, said her family had moved to Bernards Township for the schools and the diversity of the community. She said her family also recognizes Christmas and Hanukkah in her home, and said her daughters respect their friends' religions. She said she would like for her daughters' religion to receive the same respect in the school, and an understanding of Diwali would enrich the "melting pot" in the school system.
As have other speakers, Karda said that the township's demographic study shows that about nine perecent of the township's population is of Indian background. "That's not an insignificant number."