In a Reversal, School District Keeps Muslim Holiday on Its Calendar
Sunday, May 20, 2012 • 12:56pm
PATERSO N, NJ – In response to objections from Paterson’s Muslim community, city education officials have dropped their plan to hold classes on a major Islamic holiday in October.
Under the district’s original calendar for the 2012-13 academic year, city schools would have remained open during all religious holidays that are not state or federal holidays. That represented a break from the recent practice of closing Paterson schools on the Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah and the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Mohamed El Filali, executive director of the Islamic Center of Passaci County, attended the Board of Education meeting on May 2 and asked school officials to reconsider holding classes on Eid al-Adha. State-appointed schools superintendent Donnie Evans subsequently changed the calendar after meeting with El Filali.
“The Imam presented a strong argument for how the students from Paterson’s Islamic community are very conscientious and do not like to miss school days,’’ said Paterson Public Schools spokeswoman Terry Corallo. “Dr. Evans’ primary concern is for the students.”
City schools will be closed on October 26 for Eid al-Adha, but will remain open on September, which is Rosh Hashanah, and September 26, or Yom Kippur. Certain Christian holidays, like Christmas and Good Friday, are state and federal holidays and remain as off-days on the calendar.
Under district policies, students who take off from school to observe religious holidays will be excused. Staff members will be required to take personal or vacation days.
“There are plenty of children in Paterson of diverse backgrounds who practice the Muslim religion,’’ said El Filali. By observing the Islamic holiday, the district was embracing them as part of the community and not treating them as outsiders, the Imam said.
“They are the person who sits next to you,’’ he said.