After criticism, Virginia Beach to nix school calendar starting on Rosh Hashanah
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After criticism, Virginia Beach to nix school calendar starting on Rosh Hashanah

Jewish parents had complained timetable is unfair to kids who have to miss first day of school due to holiday

Illustrative: A schoolbus in Lakewood, New Jersey. (YouTube screenshot/NJTV News)
Illustrative: A schoolbus in Lakewood, New Jersey. (YouTube screenshot/NJTV News)

JTA — The school board in the US city of Virginia Beach will suspend the district’s 2021-22 calendar after the Jewish community complained that the first day of classes coincides with the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

The board voted to approve the calendar late last month, though one board member pointed out that the first day of school would fall on the Jewish New Year, the WAVY10 website reported Monday.

The calendar extends the 2022 spring break to include Easter Monday.

Superintendent Aaron Spence explained the board’s original call in a letter dated January 30 addressed to the “Virginia Beach City Public School Jewish Community Families” and published in Virginia’s Jewish News. Spence said the board had decided not to start school before Labor Day and could not start any later while fulfilling the state requirement of instructional time.

“I understand that choosing between religious observance and attending the first day of school is not an easy one,” he wrote. “I would therefore like to remind the community that religious holidays are excused absences for Virginia Beach City Public Schools.”

This did not sit well with parents.

“How does nobody see that was wrong?” parent Mindi Golden Friedman told WAVY. “You start the kids off at a disadvantage if they miss their first day of school. Everyone who is choosing to spend the day with their families in synagogue praying versus being in the class.”

The board’s chairwoman, Carolyn Rye, said she will make a motion at the February 25 meeting to suspend the finalized calendar and call for the calendar work group to reconvene.

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