Chesterfield County School Calendar Change Sparks Controversy
The Chesterfield County School Board added four new holidays to the calendar for the next school year. These include President’s Day, Good Friday, Yom Kippur and Eid al-Fitr. But some came out to a recent board meeting to object.
Meg Clark, whose kids go to school in Chesterfield, told the board that growing up Jewish meant making ornaments for her non-existent Christmas tree and coloring Easter Eggs.
She says changing the calendar will let students learn about other holidays families celebrate.
“Holidays that are observed by a county that is no longer predominantly white, but a melting pot of races and religions," Clark said.
Another speaker said the new calendar could come into conflict with the constitutional separation of church and state. Justin Smith, who ran as a candidate for the school board, said identifying days off as religious holidays could lead to a slippery slope: “What will this board do when Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs or Satanists ask for the holidays to be observed?”
A comparison of scheduled holidays from this year: Two teacher workshop days will become school holidays.
Resident Ron Hayes says giving those extra days off to staff is excessive and could make them less productive.
“Sum it up, and it is two days shy of being two complete full months off with pay," said Hayes. A comparison of the proposed calendar with an official calendar from last year showed no net increase in student days off, but teachers will have 2 less student-free workdays.
School board members say they wanted to be in step with surrounding counties, such as Henrico, when they created the new calendar.