- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2007

Area school officials say they have no official days off for Muslim holidays and have not been pressured like the Baltimore County school system to make such changes.

Most of the other area systems said they don’t track students’ religion and don’t acknowledge most religious holidays. However, they will excuse students for recognized religious holidays, even if they aren’t on the official school calendar.

“We must meet the best needs of the general population of the whole school district,” said Lynn McCawley, a spokeswoman for Prince George’s County public schools. “But with a note from parents, we will grant an excused absence on the days that are not systemic holidays — such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, or Yom Kippur or Passover.”

The issue recently re-emerged in Baltimore County, where the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has pushed to include in the school calendar at least one of two major Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Eid al-Fitr is the day after Ramadan, when Muslims break the monthlong fast they have kept from sunrise to sundown.

Eid al-Adha is the last day of Hajj, the period in February in which Muslims around the world make a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to commemorate Ibrahim’s obedience to God in his willingness to sacrifice his son.

The dates of Ramadan change each year because Muslims follow a lunar calendar.

Prince George’s County prohibits scheduling tests, meetings, workshops, field trips or other special activities on those days.

The county’s 2007-2008 calendar includes an official school holiday to mark the month of Ramadan, though it is coupled with the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana.

However, Prince George’s is the only local county to list Ramadan on its official school calendar. Good Friday and Easter also are listed.

Elsewhere in the region, school closings for religious holidays vary.

Montgomery County public schools and offices are closed for the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. In addition, the county lists Christmas and Easter as religious holidays.

Montgomery County school officials could not be reached yesterday.

The Fairfax County public school system has an extensive list of holidays and observances on its official calendar but lists no religious holidays.

“Christmas may have roots in Christianity, but it is recognized as a national holiday,” said Paul Regnier, spokesman for Fairfax County public schools. “However, we’ll certainly try to accommodate any religion’s holiday.”

The District and Arlington County list no religious holidays on their official school calendars.

Arlington County public schools spokesman Frank Bellavia said religious holidays have not been an issue. But schools officials are aware of them to avoid conflicts, he said.

“We send out calendars with religious holidays to principals at the beginning of the school year so they don’t schedule important events such as tests, concerts or field trips on those days,” Mr. Bellavia said.

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