The Barrington school calendar is about to become a cultural and religious learning tool.
The School Committee voted unanimously Thursday night, Sept. 6, to add all of the major cultural and religious holidays of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths to the calendar even if schools remain in session on those days.
The decision to add holidays also changed the current designation of "Jewish Holy Days" on Sept. 17 and Sept. 26 to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The schools are already closed on those days, as they are for other major holidays, such as Christmas, Good Friday, and Thanksgiving.
Both School Committee members Kate Brody and Scott Fuller said the calendar should be more specific and educational about holidays.
“We need to promote understanding and recognize national and religious holidays in our community even if we don’t take off those days,” said Fuller. “We need to be as broadminded as possible. It’s the right thing to do.”
Brody, who looked at the calendars of all the school districts in Rhode Island, said the Jewish holidays, in particular, were identified specifically if they were recognized.
“I want to delete Jewish Holy Days and replace them with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,” she said.
Faith Moses, the student representative to the School Committee, agreed with Brody and Fuller.
“I think it’s important to have interfaith acceptance,” she said.
The issue of the "Jewish Holy Days" designation arose when a Barrington resident complained to the state education commissioner’s office, said School Committee Chairman Patrick Guida. The commissioner’s office then contacted Barrington.
The Jewish Holy Days will be changed immediately to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. There was no decision made on exactly which holidays will be added to the calendar, although Fuller presented a list from the Boston public schools.
The Boston list includes Christian, Jewish, and Islamic holidays, including Ramadan; Orthodox Holy Friday and Easter; Kwanzaa, and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Brody said she could do without the latter two days on the calendar.
Rabbi Andrew Klein of Temple Habonim in Barrington thanked the School Committee for making Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur days off.
“You don’t know how difficult it was for many students to make a decision about skipping school,” he said. “They don’t have to decide anymore.”