Harford County Public Schools high school graduations for the 2013-2014 school year are spread out over a slightly longer period than the 2013 graduation season, according to the schedule officials released this week.
The 2013 graduation season took place over eight days, from May 31 to June 7, with three graduation ceremonies each day on June 4 and June 5, and four events, including a ceremony for Future Link participants, on June 6. The Future Link program, which is held in cooperation with Harford Community College, serves special-needs students who have graduated from high school.
The 2014 season takes place over 10 days, according to a schedule of senior activities for the current academic year, released Monday.
Graduation ceremonies are scheduled from May 28, starting with C. Milton Wright High School, through June 6, when Harford Technical High School students graduate.
Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for Harford County Public Schools, said Wednesday the graduation season had been spread out to accommodate students and families observing the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.
Shavuot fell during mid-May in 2013, and will be observed from June 3 to June 5 in 2014.
"We were just trying our best to avoid that time, for our Jewish students and their families," Kranefeld explained.
Shavuot, which has its origins during ancient times as a celebration of the grain harvest, commemorates when the Jewish people received the Torah, or law, from God on Mt. Sinai during Biblical times, according to http://www.myjewishlearning.com. It is traditionally observed seven weeks after Passover, during which Jews celebrate their ancestors' liberation from slavery in Egypt; the ancient Hebrews received the Torah during their exodus in the desert.
"We're just trying to accommodate that [holiday] schedule," Kranefeld said.
Nevertheless, school athletic contests were held in Harford County last week during the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, including an almost full slate of Friday night football games after sundown on Sept. 13. Two exceptions were that C. Milton Wright's football team hosted Western Technical School of Baltimore County on Thursday, Sept. 12, because Baltimore County moved its games, and North Harford High was scheduled to play at Albert Einstein in Montgomery County, where games were also shifted to Thursday. The latter game was later canceled because of lightning, however.
Kranefeld stated coaches work with student athletes "as they make them aware of holy days that are important to them in order to make any necessary accommodations."
"We partnered with a local rabbi to discuss the nature of the holidays and the appropriate associated observance period," she wrote in an e-mail.
A famous example of an athlete forgoing play for religious observance is Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.
Koufax, who was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965, did not take the mound in the first game of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins because it fell on Yom Kippur.
Koufax went on to be named the MVP of the World Series and pitched a 2-0 shutout in Game 7, as the Dodgers won the series four games to three. Koufax pitched in three of the seven games, according to MLB.com, though he lost Game 2 before winning games 5 and 7.
Other Jewish ballplayers have since emulated Koufax and not played on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; however, with today's multi-tiered playoff format, the World Series games fall after the Jewish high holidays.
The senior activities schedule for 2014 covers commencement ceremonies for the county's nine high schools, plus Harford Technical High School, the alternative education program at the Center for Educational Opportunity and the John Archer School, which serves special-needs students.
Kranefeld noted 2013 was the first year commencement ceremonies were held in the new APG Federal Credit Union Arena on the Harford Community College campus. Five commencement ceremonies and the Future Link celebration were held at the arena in 2013, which opened in December 2012.
Five commencements will be held at the arena in 2014.
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Kranefeld said the longer commencement schedule, with two ceremonies per day, except June 5, when Aberdeen, Fallston and Havre de Grace high schools will hold their commencements, will allow school officials to better manage the flow of graduations and traffic, especially at the community college.
Fallston's graduation will be at the community college arena on June 5, and Aberdeen and Havre de Grace's will be held at the respective schools. The Aberdeen and Havre de Grace commencements will both be held at 6 p.m. and the Fallston ceremony at 1:30 p.m.
The graduations scheduled for 2014 include C. Milton Wright and North Harford high schools on May 28, at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively, both at the community college.
Joppatowne and Edgewood high schools' ceremonies will be held on May 29, with Joppatowne's at 1:30 p.m. at the college and Edgewood's at 6 p.m. at Edgewood.
The John Archer School ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. on May 30 at the school.
Patterson Mill and Bel Air High Schools' ceremonies will be held on June 2, at 1:30 p.m. on the community college campus and 6 p.m. at Bel Air High.
The ceremonies for the CEO and Harford Technical High School on June 6 will be held at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., at the respective schools.