New York City

NYC schools to close on two Muslim holidays

De Blasio makes announcement at Brooklyn school

March 4, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina announced in Brooklyn on Wednesday that NYC schools will close for two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Adha and Eid-al-Fitr.
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For the first time, New York City public schools will close during two Muslim holidays.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina announced on Wednesday that the nation’s largest school system will close for Eid al-Adha next September. Summer school will also close for Eid-al-Fitr in 2016.

The mayor made the announcement at P.S./I.S. 30, the Mary White Ovington School in Bay Ridge. The school’s principal is Carol Heeraman.

De Blasio said the change would mean that Muslim families will no longer have to choose between sending their kids to school or observing the holidays. Between 600,000 to a million residents are Muslim, according to estimates. About a third of the school’s students were absent last Eid al-Adha.

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 “We’re here today to make good on a promise to our Muslim brothers and sisters that a holiday of supreme importance to the Muslim community will be recognized in our school calendar so that children can honor the holiday without missing school, so that families can be together on the holiday, so that our city respects and embraces this important and growing community,” de Blasio said.

“This is about respect for one of the great faiths of this earth,” he added.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña told reporters that the city has had “unbelievable support from the Muslim community and I want to particularly single out Debbie Almontaser and her family.”

Almontaser, a respected Brooklyn educator, was the founding principal of the city’s first Arabic-themed public school, the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn. After blowback from anti-Muslim right wing groups in 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg removed Almontaser as principal. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission later ruled that Almontaser had been unfairly treated.

Teachers will be having one day of professional development on the Eid al-Adha holiday, which will take place September 24, de Blasio said. “Schools start the Wednesday after Labor Day, so not one teaching day is lost.”

The school calendar will have to be adjusted yearly, but the school year will continue to have 182 school day. The state mandates 180, and the city adds an extra two in case of snow days.

“Our City works best when we’re working together, and nothing says inclusion and respect like today’s announcement that New York will officially recognize the two most important Muslim holidays,” Public Advocate Letitia James said in a statement. “By establishing Eid as an official school holiday, Muslim families will no longer have to reconcile their faith with the drive to educate their children.”

“Brooklyn has a proud and growing Muslim community, enriching neighborhoods from Bay Ridge to Boerum Hill,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “Their culture and traditions are woven into the beautiful patchwork quilt that is our borough.”

“After years of advocating by New York City’s Muslim community, Muslim public school students will finally and thankfully no longer be penalized for observing their religious holidays,” said Zead Ramadan, a board member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said, according to AP.

“This is what New York City is all about — recognition, inclusion and respect,” Linda Sarsour, a Muslim community advocate and public school parent, said in a statement.

 “To me, the most important thing about this decision is that we can now say that we are multicultural, multiracial, multi, multi, mutli-everything city, and we’re all going to be learning about this in our classrooms,” de Blasio told reporters.

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