(Video: Courtesy of Bare Naked Islam BNI)
By MIKE ISAACS
Skokie School Districts 68, 69’s 2013-14 calendar for the first time calls for a day off on Eid ul Adha, a major Muslim holiday.
Not long ago, adopting a school calendar for the following year was perfunctory for Niles Township school districts, but not anymore. The village’s growing ethnic diversity has inspired more districts to break away from old patterns.
The township used to be heavily Jewish and many of its schools closed down only for high Jewish holidays and a few others like Good Friday.
Neighboring Skokie School District 73.5, though, was one of the first township districts to recognize the area’s demographic change in deciding on its calendar. That district’s school board made the controversial decision — at least at the time — to remain open for all religious holidays, sparking an annual lively debate.
More districts have followed District 73.5’s lead, even if remaining open on all religious holidays results in certain heavy non-attendance days.
District 68, the largest elementary school district in Skokie, has not yet taken that path, but naming Eid ul Adha a day off signals a big change.
“This was the first year I’ve been approached by a parent as to why we take two Jewish days off and no Muslim day off,” District 68 Superintendent Frances McTague said.
The latest school report card from the state shows that nearly 73 percent of District 68 students are not white, and more than 32 percent are Asian.
Under the approved district calendar for next school year, classes will begin Aug. 21 and end June 3, 2014 if no make-up days are needed. In addition to Eid ul Adha on Oct. 15, the district will close for Rosh Hashanah Sept. 5 and Good Friday April 18, 2014.
District 68 for the first time is also considering adopting a 2014-15 calendar soon, thereby beginning a pattern of planning two-year calendars at a time.
“Lots of school districts are adopting two-year calendars now,” McTague said. “This next year though will be a little more challenging.”
That’s because more religious holidays fall on school days and Niles Township High School District 219 is beginning its calendar in 2014-15 earlier than before. The feeder elementary school districts have always taken into account the high school district’s calendar.
The District 68 Board last week discussed waiving three usual days off in the 2014-15 calendar: Veterans Day, Presidents Day and Casimir Pulaski Day. The state allows districts to get waivers to stay open for those holidays although District 68 has never done so before.
The District 68 School Board could vote on a 2014-15 calendar in February.
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editorial footnote: This is a letter that was sent out by Skokie Illinois School District #69 to parents. Note, they fail to mention in this letter that Veterans Day was replaced by a muslim holiday. http://www.skokie69.k12.il.us/index.php/info/district-announcements/item/1569-halloween-letter-from-superintendent-shepherd