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Howard County Board of Education Takes Action on 2016-2017 Academic Calendar

January 14th, 2016

Days Off to be Incorporated for Lunar New Year Eve, Eid Al-Adha and Diwali

The Howard County Board of Education today voted unanimously to continue with the current practice of schools and offices being closed on mandated state holidays, and Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah in the 2016–2017 Academic Calendar. The Board also asked the school system to propose options for including three new days when schools will be closed next school year.

The Board asked school system staff to identify one additional day to recognize each of the following cultural observances only for the 2016-2017 calendar: Lunar New Year Eve, the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, and the Hindu holiday of Diwali. The system will need to bring options back to the Board for consideration that would close schools for students, or for both students and staff.

“I am extremely pleased by the Board’s ability to discuss and unanimously agree to seek ways to recognize the diverse backgrounds of Howard County’s students and families,” said Board Chair Christine O’Connor. “We want to do our best to find flexibility within the calendar to provide opportunities for all students to experience all cultures within our community.”

The system will issue a Request for Proposal to study the impact of the range of religious observances celebrated in Howard County to inform the development of the 2017-2018 calendar that will be presented to the Board in September. The 2017-2018 Academic Calendar Committee has begun to meet and includes representation from a broad array of community groups, including the Jewish Federation of Howard County, the Howard County Muslim Council, the Hindu community, and the Chinese American Parent Association.

“The purpose of the school calendar is to provide adequate time for teaching and learning, but we also try to address the unique desires of our community,” said Dr. Renee A. Foose, Superintendent of the Howard County Public School System. “We heard from hundreds of community members and we value their input. We will do our best to provide options that ensure students receive a great education and have opportunities to celebrate their cultures and traditions.”

The 2016-2017 school year is proposed to begin for students on August 29, staff will return on August 22, and the school year would end on June 13, 2017, contingent on any approved revisions to accommodate the additional holidays. Five days will be built into the calendar for inclement weather, which would extend the school year if necessary.

The Board approved the system’s recommendation to issue the RFP for an independent research organization to survey and obtain data to inform future calendar decisions. An independent company or organization would ensure objectivity, consistency and analytical integrity by collecting data on student and staff attendance on religious and cultural holidays. Voluntary disclosure of religious preference would be invited as part of the survey.

The Board also renewed its commitment to improve communication and implementation of current policy, so all members of our school community understand their rights to observe their religion and have the opportunity and time to make up work. The system will work with school-based administrators to ensure that the provisions of Policy 3000, Religious Observances, are communicated to students and families. The calendar committee was asked to bring the proposed start dates for the 2017-2018 school year and to honor the Board’s prior commitment to approve the 2016-2017 calendar, before the end of the current school year.