The Muslim community has been pushing Montgomery County Public Schools to close for the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha for years. Now, the group Equality4Eid is just asking for the holiday to be listed next to Yom Kippur on the 2015-2016 school calendar, which the school board is expected to approve next November.
On Sept. 23, 2015, schools will already be closed for Yom Kippur, and Eid al-Adha falls on the same day that year. Rather than in a side note that the Muslim holiday is also that day, Equality4Eid wants the school system to list Eid al-Adha next to Yom Kippur. A draft version of the calendar reads “(Note: Eid al-Adha also falls on this date)” and Yom Kippur as the reason for closing.
“It’s something that’s very, very easy... We’re not asking them to close school because school is already closed,” said Saqib Ali, a co-chairman of Equality4Eid and former state delegate of District 39. “We’re just asking, ‘on this piece of paper, can you please list these two holidays equally.’”
Eid al-Adha is a major Muslim holiday that commemorates the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, according to Equality4Eid.org. The date of the holiday is based on the Islamic lunar calendar, and so does not fall on the same day on standard American calendars each year, according to the site.
In response to requests to close school for the holiday, the school system tracked absences on Eid al-Adha last fall and found the absentee rate to be in typical school day range of 4 to 7 percent, according to Montgomery County schools spokesman Dana Tofig. The absentee rate would have to be higher for the board to consider closing school, though it has not set a threshold for absences that would warrant closing school, Tofig said.
“I would like to have clarity on what the absentee level would have to be to make that decision,” said School Board Member Chris Barclay (Dist. 4).
School Board Member Rebecca Smondrowski (Dist. 2) said she thinks the board should consider removing holidays, or reasons for closing, from the school calendar and simply list school closings. With all the different communities in the county, there are many holidays that could be listed, she said.
“We have a lot of holidays, so while I fully respect what the Muslim community is asking for, I do believe that we need to have a clear and equitable way of deciding on school closings,” Smondrowski said. Absences are the main reason the board has said it considers school closings.
In Tuesday’s meeting, Barclay asked staff to look into whether there was any reason for the board not to list the holidays equally.
“I don’t see any reason why not,” to list Eid al-Adha, Barclay said.
The board is not currently considering the 2015-2016 calendar. It will approve the calendar in November.