Friday, April 15, 2005
Carlisle School tries to accommodate religious diversity
Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle presented the FY05-06 school calendar to the Carlisle School Committee at the April 6 meeting. It is laid out in a new format containing no listed religious holidays. The school is trying to support diversity of religious preferences, Doyle explained, while keeping interruptions to the school schedule at a minimum.
Doyle said the Diversity Task Force suggested publishing the strictly secular calendar to avoid leaving out holidays that may not be represented by a majority of students. Parents or students needing accommodations due to religious holidays may discuss their need with their teacher.
Doyle also provided an alternative version of the calendar listing some religious holidays that "impact the 2005-2006 School Year," including Rosh Hashanah and Good Friday. In addition, the calendar notes that "Diwali is November 1. Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwaanza coincide with December vacation this year. Chinese New Year is January 29. Part of Passover falls during April vacation.
If your child celebrates a holiday not listed, please let the teacher know." The committee discussed whether to send both calendars to parents or only one. No decision was made.
This change was prompted by Carlisle parent Terri Golson's visit to a school committee meeting last fall, at which she requested all students be given "homework-free nights" on the nights of important religious holidays, in particular Jewish holidays.
Carlisle School Committee member Michael Fitzgerald wondered if the current plan of leaving it up to parents to contact teachers is what Golson was requesting. If all students had homework-free evenings on all holidays, said Doyle, there could possibly be an unmanageable number of homework-free nights. She said the school is sensitive to the need for families to observe their holidays. Doyle has asked the Diversity Task Force to provide teachers and staff with educational materials listing when religious holidays occur, how they are celebrated, and how important they are to the specific religion. "The teachers will know when a holiday is coming up," she said. When asked if the teachers would keep a list of which students would be celebrating which holidays, Doyle said the teachers would not be responsible for "keeping track" of the religions their students observe.
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