MCPS Now Closing for Eid and Chinese Lunar New Year


photo by via Flickr

A Lunar New Year party in Las Vegas.

by Ria Endishaw, Staff Writer

The Montgomery County Board of Education decided last November to close school for Lunar New Year and Eid. In the past few years, Montgomery County officials have seen a pattern of student and staff absences on Lunar New Year and Eid.

Eid al-Fitr is an Islamic holiday that marks the end of a month-long fast called Ramadan. Lunar New Year is the first day of the traditional Chinese calendar that is organized by the cycles of the moon. 9% of parents said that their students won’t attend school if MCPS stayed open on Lunar New Year and 4% for Eid al-Fitras said by Bethesda Magazine.

In the spring of 2018, students came before the board and gave statements to persuade members to add the holiday on the calendar. Those students were only a small part of the 14% of Asian Americans in the count.

“Students now don’t fully enjoy Lunar New Year anymore because instead of staying home and spending time with family, we have to go to school,” Alexander Wei, a student at Herbert Hoover Middle School, told Bethesda Magazine. Most of the student speakers like Alexander highlighted the fact that because of MCPS’s previous policy, they feel a detachment from their heritage and put into a split between education and culture.

The main problem Board members faced when addressing this issue was to organize the Calendar so students can be in school for the number of days required. Eid al-Fitr occasionally falls on the same week as Advanced Placement testing, so the Board members were in a hard place and had to find a practical way to fit those holidays into the calendar. However, the college board decided in early November to hold their second testing dates on Eid al-Fitr. This caused a major complication for Muslim students. MCPS’s superintendent, Jack R. Smith did send a letter to the College Board asking them to adjust those dates.

MCPS’s calendar for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year starts before Labor Day, a change from previous years in which an executive order blocked school districts from starting before that date. Maryland General Assembly legislation overturned this executive order, which was ordered by Governor Hogan in 2016, despite a veto from Governor Larry Hogan.

Many families pushed for these days to be off, and after a county-wide survey that took a poll of student absence on holidays that included not only Lunar New Year, Eid, Diwali, Orthodox Christmas, and Orthodox Easter. Montgomery County Public School officials reached their decision to close school for Eid and Lunar New Year.