Dana Schallheim wept with joy when her colleagues on the Board of Education voted to make Rosh Hashana a non-instructional day for Anne Arundel County Schools.
The issue is what “spurred the spark” of her school board run, said Schallheim, who represents District 5. The district stopped closing offices and schools on the Jewish holiday in 2015.
“That wasn’t acceptable for me. That wasn’t acceptable for my community,” Schallheim said. “For me, last night was a restoration of an Anne Arundel County Public Schools tradition.”
However the school system still needs to provide the state-mandated 180 days of instruction, so officials decided to extend the 2019-20 school year by one day.
Maryland lawmakers recently rolled back Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order that forced public schools to close by June 15, so the last day of the 2019-20 school year will be Tuesday, June 16, 2020.
The measure to close on Rosh Hashana comes after officials discussed the results of a school calendar survey in which 62 percent of nearly 27,000 respondents said they preferred to end classes on June 15, 2020.
The survey asked students, staff and parents if they wanted to extend the school year by four days. Those who did want a longer year were asked to rank seven different ways those days could be used — from adding three days to Spring Break to building another inclement weather day into the calendar.
About 6 percent of the people who answered “yes” to extending the school year and ranked the seven possibilities made Rosh Hashana their top preference, according to survey results.
There was also an option to close schools on Diwali, a Hindu festival. About 1% of respondents who wanted four more school days and ranked the seven possibilities chose Diwali first. Board members on Wednesday did not make any motions to turn that holiday into a non-instructional day.
Two students who testified in favor of closing schools on Rosh Hashana said they’ve experienced anti-Semitism in schools. Board member Julie Hummer advocated for more education surrounding religious holidays.
Several days will shift as a result of the Rosh Hashana closure, which is Sept. 30, 2019, according to a statement from the school system.
These are key dates in the 2019-20 school calendar:
- The first day of classes for grades 1-5, 6 and 9 will be Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019
- The last day of classes for most students will be Tuesday, June 16, 2020
- Prekindergarten and ECI students will finish classes on Friday, June 12, 2020.
- The last day for graduating seniors will be Thursday, May 21, 2020
- There will be will inclement weather closings built into the calendar, with a conditional third day scheduled for March 10, 2020, a parent-teacher conference day.
- Schools and offices will close for three days for Thanksgiving break and three days for Easter/Spring break
- There will be two parent-teacher conference days for elementary and middle school families, plus one parent-teacher conference day for high school families in October 2019.
- There will be one parent-teacher conference day for all grade levels in March 2020