A portion of the Hewlett-Woodmere School District is eagerly awaiting word from New York State’s Department of Education. Last year several members of the district’s Muslim community approached the Board of Education about including the holidays Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha in the school calendar.
Eid al Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast during the day. On Eid al Fitr they feast with family and friends after a morning prayer and children receive gifts for the good deeds they did during Ramadan. Eid al Adha marks the end of the Hajj, or trip to Mecca, family and friends gather to reflect on family values and sacrifice.
Shahnaz Mallik has one grandchild attending Ogden Elementary School and another at the Franklin Early Childhood Center. In a letter to Superintendent Dr. Ralph Marino, she wrote, “In a political climate that has become increasingly hostile to Muslim-Americans over the last several years, it is extremely important for our children to know that their religions, cultures and holidays are valued by their schools.”
According to Mallik, several other districts on Long Island, including Valley Stream have added the holidays to their calendar. She along with the 261 other people who signed her petition on change.org believe it’s time for Hewlett-Woodmere to join them.
Teachers already accommodate any students who miss class due to a religious holiday, but Mallik doesn’t think it’s fair to make students choose. “It’s hard to enjoy the holiday when kids are worried about falling behind in their classes,” she said.
Mallik has lived in the Five Towns for 30 years, there wasn’t much of a Muslim population then, but as it’s grown she thinks it’s time the district acknowledge the holidays. “When we moved here in 1988 my daughter was the only Muslim student in her class,” she said. “Now there are around four other Muslims in my granddaughter’s class.”
She first broached the subject last February, which meant it was too late to include the dates in the 2017-18 calendar. Dr. Marino said everything is set for the Eid holidays to be discussed for the next school year. “We’re just waiting for the state to establish the 2018-19 calendar,” he said. “We have a formal request in to acknowledge the Eid holidays, and we will do that.” The Board of Education still needs to approve the change. District officials said that the calendar will be an agenda item at an upcoming BOE meeting.
Every year the holidays fall around 11 days earlier, because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. This means that for the next few years they’re expected to take place during the summer.
Another parent, Francois Tenenbaum, requested the Board of Education consider requesting more days off around Easter. “I notice there’s a lot Italian and Irish people in the community, as well as a growing Latino and Filipino community as well,” he said. “Many of them are Catholic and there’s an important Thursday and Monday around Easter in their communities that aren’t acknowledged.”
Scott McInnes, the board’s president told Tenenbaum, and anyone else who had a date to add to the calendar to email Dr. Marino — firstname.lastname@example.org — who will take their requests into account..