Hindu and Muslim holidays will be added to the Maryland school’s calendar beginning in the 2016-2017 school year.

A decision has been taken by Howard County Board of Education to expand the schedule of cultural and religious holidays. This decision was unanimous and reflected, according to the board members, the increasing diversity of the Maryland school system. Schools will be closed on a Hindu and a Muslim holiday, a first in the history of the school system.

Students in Maryland will get two vacation days next year for two Jewish holy days. This follows a debate on whether to terminate this longtime practice. There will also be an off day for Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday on the start of the Lunar New Year and also on Diwali, a Hindu holiday. The change came as elected officials tried to be fair to an increasing spectrum of groups which have asked on behalf of students to take time off and be with their families when the important holiday dates come by.

Janet Siddiqui, a board member, echoed the majority opinion that the school calendar must include religions and cultures of the all the residents of Howard County. The action by the Howard school board will in all probabilities attract attention from all over the country. This is because school systems have a hard time creating a school calendar which is inclusive- balancing logistics, legal constraints and fairness as the communities grow increasingly diverse. It is also a factor that minorities also become vocal.

Kirsten Coombs, the school board candidate, hailed the unanimous decision, saying that she is happy that everybody has recognized the many cultures which makes Howard County a special place. According to Zainab Chaudry, Outreach Manager of Council of American-Islamic Relations Maryland Outreach, the vote is living proof that it is possible to accommodate all religious requirements of the many faith communities that reside in diverse school districts. Chaudry said that religious plurality is mark of an inclusive and integrated society- and that is mirrored in the decision of Howard County Board of Education.

This decision be come into effect for the period 2016 to 2017, as the issue is being studied by the school board. A plan has been mooted by officials to conduct a religious preferences survey. District staff was also asked by the board to report a number of options on the method to implement such changes.  Before this, school officials must have non-religious or secular reasons on the basis of giving school holidays. Such secular reasons can also include the presumption of high absenteeism. 


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