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Farmington BOE reverses decision on Jewish holidays for 2023-2024 school year

In an unanimous vote, the board walked back its decision to give students the day off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

FARMINGTON, Conn. — In a unanimous vote, the Farmington Board of Education decided to go back to the status quo when it comes to the 2023-2024 school calendar.

In November, the board voted to eliminate the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur from the calendar. It also failed to add the holiday of Diwali.

Board members said that decision was made with concern about students missing too many days of school, among other factors.

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"In recent years districts across Connecticut and other states have begun to receive requests for schools to close for certain holidays and religious observances. How to address these requests fairly and equitably while maintaining our goal of providing high excellence education is a difficult balance," said Sarah Healey a member of the Farmington BOE.

However, the decision led to backlash from the Farmington community and beyond.

"What we have to do as communities is to be as one," said Mark Walsh of West Hartford. "We're talking about diversity, inclusion, and to accept others who are different than us. Is it just that we need a majority or a great number of people different than us to honor holidays and traditions?" he said.

Monday evening's vote means students will have the day off from school for Yom Kippur next year. Rosh Hashanah falls on a weekend in 2023 so it won’t affect students.

"I liked what they said about intent versus impact. I don't believe that their intent was biased I believe they were trying to look at objective criteria but they clearly misapprehended what the impact would be," said David Waren, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford.

An impact still felt by those who were hoping the board would add Diwali to its list of observed holidays. Next year it falls on a weekend, but no decision has been made yet about any later years.

"We're kind of used to this disappointment because we've been working towards it for the last 18 months so we messed the chance because they were not able to consider it," said Suraj Kurtakoti of Farmington.

Dozens of people lined up to speak about the holiday decisions, hoping that moving forward they can feel heard before any are made.

"It's so important for communities across this community, for their observances to be respected and to appreciate that to do otherwise puts students, Jewish students, Hindu students in this case, in a really difficult position," Waren said.

The BOE only approves school calendars one year at a time, so it is possible for other holidays to be included for later years.

Gaby Molina is a reporter and anchor at FOX61 News. She can be reached at gmolina@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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