In 2011, the School Committee passed a calendar that did not include religious holidays that were not legal federal holidays. Christmas is a federal holiday, but Christmas Eve is not. The omission of Christmas Eve is now being criticized. Including Christmas Eve is no different than including minority holidays (e.g., Yom Kippur) that are not federal holidays. We commend the School Committee for honoring its own policy but recognize that everyone will now feel the pain.
Majority students, families and teachers will now have less opportunity to travel for their holidays and minority students, families and teachers will still be burdened by the stress of having to choose between family, religious observance and school and feel singled out as different due to their absence. It is not comparable to a day off for "illness" as stated by a former School Committee member when voting last time to remove the minority holidays. Now folks are seeking additional Christmas Eve travel time, but are not proposing to address the absence of equal opportunity for their minority neighbors. This seems wrong. Is there a lack of awareness about the context of this policy when it was instituted in 2011? Do we understand that minority holidays of our friends and neighbors were removed from the calendar as part of this policy?
It's time to reconsider the prior decision. We have a chance to set an example for our children by recognizing that all members of our community have an equal opportunity to spend holidays with their families and to follow their beliefs, separate from school, and not in conflict with school. Other districts have been able to add a few days at the start or finish of the year to accommodate the needs of all in a respectful way. Rather than divide our community, the better solution is to become a little more inclusive so that all children know they are welcome and belong in Harvard. We can do a better job as a community in caring for one another.
Bruce and Ellen Leicher