- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Area public schools will celebrate Halloween in different ways today — some will hold “Halloween” parties and parades, while others will have “costume” parades. Some won’t have anything at all.

While Christmas concerts and parties are often called “winter” or “holiday” festivities these days, many schools including those in Arlington and Montgomery counties don’t have a problem celebrating Halloween — and referring to the holiday by its official name.

“We’ve got Halloween parades, all kinds of things,” said Frank Bellavia, a spokesman for Arlington Public Schools. “To my knowledge, all of our schools call it Halloween.”

Many schools in Montgomery County will put up decorations, hold parades and other activities that will be “largely referred to as Halloween,” although some schools opt to “call it a fall festival,” said Kate Harrison, spokeswoman for the county schools.

At Bethesda Elementary, there will be a Halloween party and parade this afternoon. But parents have the option of having their children sent to an alternate site in the school, where a school staff member will supervise other activities, likely a movie, said Leslie Moore, administrative secretary.

Several D.C. schools contacted by The Washington Times had nothing planned for Halloween, although a few were going to hold parades. Langdon Elementary in Northeast won’t celebrate Halloween, but it will participate in a walk this afternoon to raise money for the homeless, school officials said.

Mafara Hobson, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Public Schools, said there’s no systemwide policy for Halloween.

“It’s left to the individual schools,” she said.

At Stoddert Elementary in Northwest, “we call it more of a fall fest,” said principal Andriana Kalapothakos. She said that there will be a parade but added that classes also will do broader fall activities, such as pumpkin decorating.

This approach is “less offensive to groups that may not want to celebrate Halloween,” she said.

Meanwhile, some schools in Loudoun County will hold parades today, but they’re touted as “costume” parades and children are encouraged to dress like their favorite book character.

Wayde B. Byard, a spokesman for the county public schools, said it’s an unofficial policy, but it’s done mainly to steer the celebration away from “scary” and toward “positive.” He also said students from other cultures don’t know about Halloween.

“We’re a multicultural school district. So a lot of people come here and simply don’t understand it,” he said.

Loudoun public schools also generally refer to “winter” break and “winter” programs, instead of Christmas. But Mr. Byard said this doesn’t mean Christmas is “banned.”

If a school wants to play a Christian hymn during a holiday concert, that’s fine, he said, as long as they play songs from other religions as well.

“Again, that’s because we have a very multicultural community,” he said.

Miss Harrison echoed Mr. Byard’s sentiment.

“The idea is to include the full spectrum of culture and practices in the winter celebration,” she said.

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