City to add two Muslim holidays to next year’s school calendar

Updated — Two Muslim holidays will be added to the school calendar next year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.

Students will no longer have school on Eid al-Fitr, the final day of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which marks the culmination of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. De Blasio had promised to add the holidays during his mayoral campaign, after former Mayor Michael Bloomberg rebuffed calls to do so for years.

“This is about respect for the families of this city,” de Blasio said. “For too long families were forced into an untenable situation.”

Next fall, schools will close on September 24 to observe Eid al-Adha, de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Wednesday morning at P.S./I.S. 30 in Brooklyn, which had more than one-third of its students absent from school the last time Eid al-Adha fell on a school day. Schools will also close for students attending summer school on Eid al-Fitr, which falls on a weekday in July during 2016.

The announcement was followed by chants of “Allahu Akbar,” God is great, from the Muslim community leaders, parents and teachers assembled.

“Thank you chancellor for telling our students, telling my children that they matter and the public school is just as important for them as it is for anybody else,” Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said during Wednesday’s press conference.

The actual date of the Muslim holidays vary, and this school year, both Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha fell on days that students already had off from school. From now on, when one or both falls on what was a regular school day, the city will start the school year one day earlier.

That would eliminate a day of professional development teachers typically have before the school year starts, though city officials said the 80 minutes of professional development per week included in the new teachers union contract makes up for it.

Muslim families and religious leaders have been pushing to ensure students have both days off since 2006, when state tests were scheduled on the first day of Eid al-Adha. In 2009, the City Council’s education committee voted to recommend closing schools on both days, which members said were celebrated by as many as 10 percent of the city’s students.

As mayor, Bloomberg said that adding new holidays would mean unnecessarily disrupting the school year for many students, and that doing so for one group would encourage others to ask for their own holidays to be recognized. De Blasio already faced calls last year to add a day off for the Hindu festival Diwali.

On Wednesday, de Blasio also promised to close schools in recognition of Chinese Lunar New Year, but said it wouldn’t happen this year.

“I am going to keep working on that with the chancellor,” de Blasio said.