[Brief] BCPS considers giving Muslim holidays off on the 2022-23 school calendar

Haley Jackson, Section editor

On Tuesday Oct. 19th, the School Board of Broward County held a board meeting in which they discussed the proposed calendar for the 2022-2023 school year. With many proposed options, the upcoming school year calendar may also feature new editions: no school on Eid ul-Fitr, a Muslim holiday.

“Personally, I am excited to have an addition of Eid [ul-Fitr] in the school calendar. Many Muslims including myself were constantly worried that we would miss an important test or have an AP Exam on the holiday preventing us from celebrating,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas senior Madeeha Hanif said. “In Islam we have a few holidays and after fasting for 30 days we view Eid as a final reward. However, if school lands on our holiday we feel that our prize is taken away from us.”

Since the 1970s, the Broward County Public School district calendar has recognized Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, both Jewish holidays, as days off for both staff and students. One of the new proposed options include marking Friday, April 21 as a day off for students and teachers. Friday, April 21 is Eid ul-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

In previous years, many apart of the Muslim community have hoped for the holiday to be included on the calendar as a day off. The district has been unable to fulfill this request due to a conflict with standardized testing. For the 2022-2023 school year, Eid ul-Fitr does not fall on a day with standardized testing, which is why it has been reconsidered for possibly being approved for the following school year.

Although Federal law prohibits all government agencies from using religion as a factor when deciding which holidays to observe, the district is allowed to consider the number of students and staff that may be absent on a particular day.

In a survey of parents, students and teachers conducted by BCPS with about 25,000 responses, multiple options were provided for the possible upcoming school year’s calendar. In such, 41% prefer a calendar with no Muslim holidays with school starting on Wed., Aug. 17 and ending on Thurs., June 8. 20% prefer the second option which included April 21 as a holiday with school starting on Mon., Aug. 22 and ending Tues., June 13. The third option also includes April 21 as a holiday and has the same start as the second option but ends the year on Wednesday, June 14. Lastly, about 19% prefer including April 21 as a holiday with school starting Wednesday, Aug. 17 and ending Friday, June 9.

“I think it would be a nice addition to the calendar. Students who are Muslim should be able to observe their holiday and students and staff who aren’t can enjoy it as a day off,” sophomore Aaliyah Smikle said.

The final option with the support of 19% of survey respondents is the option several school board members seem to prefer. For teachers, ending June 9 would require them to lose a week of Summer break as the school year end date for teachers is always later than students.

“We’re trying to do the best we can do [to] make [the calendar] inclusive for all,” School Board member Ann Murray said at the Oct. 19 board meeting.

School board members are scheduled to vote on the 2022-2023 calendar in December.