More and more NJ schools are taking off for these holidays
There have been efforts to boost the number of New Jersey schools now honoring an important Hindu holiday.
A student out of Camden County has been petitioning online for all districts in the county to join those honoring Diwali with a day off.
As of last winter, roughly two dozen of the state’s nearly 600 school districts had already blocked off Diwali for the 2022-2023 school year — either as a full closure, or closed to students with staff professional development.
They include schools in parts of Middlesex, Monmouth, Mercer and Somerset counties, as well as one or two districts each in Bergen, Camden, Essex and Passaic counties.
Three other districts have short/single session or early dismissal: Colts Neck, Englewood Cliffs and West Long Branch.
This year, the festival of lights falls on Monday, Oct. 24 — although Diwali's date ranges between October and November each year, as based on the Indian calendar.
Jewish holiday halved?
Similarly, Jewish holidays land on different days each year — as they are based on the lunisolar calendar. The high holy days of both Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are observed this time of year.
In 2022, Rosh Hashana starts on the evening of Sept.25 and runs through Sept. 27 — while Yom Kippur starts on the evening of Oct. 4 through the following day.
Earlier this year, the Randolph Board of Education faced backlash for voting to remove a second day from the school calendar for Rosh Hashana.
For the 2022-2023 year, the school district calendar only includes Monday (Sept. 26), the first day of the religious holiday period.
Students who observe the Jewish holiday still can receive an excused absence for Tuesday, Sept. 27, the board previously said.
Religious 'excused absence'
A wide range of religious holidays are considered by the state Department of Education as excused absences for those who observe them.
They include — but are not limited to — days of importance for Christian, Jewish, Islam, Hindu, Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist, Eastern Orthodox Christian, Wicca, Church of God and Scientology (L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday) faiths.
Which holidays are actually built into a school calendar across the state remains a school board matter.
“Although very much governed by tradition and community expectation, the establishment of the school calendar is a clear board function which is not subject to negotiations,” according to the New Jersey School Board Association.