A new bill passed this month by the New York State Assembly will require the Department of Education to consider closing schools if a holiday is likely to result in numerous students being absent from school.
The passage of the bill comes after a push by some New York City legislators to close city public schools for the start of the Chinese New Year. Asians make up over 10 percent of the student population in the NYC school system and schools in Chinatown typically have very low attendance rates on the first day of the Chinese celebration.
“We should consider other cultures’ celebration of the New Year,” said Suiling Tsang, a parent at PS 124, whose child didn’t attend school on the start of the New Year.
“I think the typical example is the Jewish New Year. We celebrate the Jewish New Year so why can’t other cultures?”
Mayor Bill De Blasio recently said he supports creating a holiday for the Chinese and Lunar New Year. De Blasio also campaigned on creating school holidays for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, which are two Muslim celebrations.
“It will take time. It’s complicated in terms of logistics and school calendar and budget. It’s something I want to get done in a reasonable time frame,” said De Blasio in a recent interview on WNYC.
Adding three holidays to the school calendar could pose a problem for the school system. Schools are required to be in session for 180 days and the city currently only offers 181 instructional days. The school system does offer a 183 days calendar for high schools.