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The two days of Rosh Hashanah were useless in terms of learning in the school I attended through high school. Our school gave all of us the first day off. And at least half the teachers and students took off on the second day, when school was open, rendering the day useless for those in attendance.

So, last week, when our son was off of school for one of the two most important holidays in the Jewish calendar, it was simply the norm to me that school would close and we'd all be going to temple. And thus, today's topic was born.

On Thursday, an anonymous poster posed the following question:

"Why exactly are schools closing for a religious holiday in the first place? And before someone says 'but but but they're closed for CHRISTMAS, so it's only FAIR' -- Christmas is a federal holiday and secular in nature for a good portion of our population. Rosh Hashanah isn't celebrated secularly and it isn't a federal holiday so schools should not be closing for it."

Schools close for a variety of reasons. Teacher "Professional Days" -- what are those exactly? -- Winter Break which always falls around Christmas, Spring Break -- which falls next to Easter and often on Good Friday this year in several counties in the D.C. region. It's enough to make a mom pull her out trying to sort through child-care needs on those days. Despite the claim that Christmas is secular (I've worked Christmas my entire career, so I don't buy that one), anonymous asks a good question. Should schools close on a religious holiday? Does the closing violate church/state rules?

My personal belief is that school systems are not designed to jell with the lives of most working parents. Long summer breaks mean finding camp and other child care. The other two large breaks, winter and spring, revolve around Christian holidays. Do those violate church/state rules? Possibly. Does closing on the two most important Jewish holidays violate church/state? Possibly. But should teachers and kids be expected to make school a priority over every other important character and religious learning parts of their lives? No. There has to be a balance of the two. And not just for kids who are Christian, Catholic and Jewish. How else will our kids learn respect and tolerance of each other?

What do you think? How should schools handle important religious holidays?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  September 18, 2007; 7:00 AM ET
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Comments


You said it in the first paragraph "And at least half the teachers and students took off on the second day, when school was open, rendering the day useless for those in attendance."

When the population (students and/or teachers) is primary on religion and a majority would be absent as to make the day educationally worthless, the school should close. When I was in school (Montgomery County), it was only the DC burbs that closed for Rosh Hashanah. Outer burbs (like Frederick County, etc) didn't close.

It costs money to find substitutes. It wastes the time of the students to attend when teaching doesn't occur.

If there was an area which was primarily Muslim and during the holy day(s) the school was mostly empty, the school SHOULD close.

Posted by: Father of 2 | September 18, 2007 7:35 AM | Report abuse

I have no problem generally with closing school on religious holidays, but - as a working parent - would prefer that the schools limit these to those that are also federal holidays. In short, the schools should be mindful of not having too many school holidays that aren't also parent (i.e., federal) holidays. It is hard enough to accommodate summer break/spring break/teach work days.

But I also think that schools should then be sensitive to other religions and try to accommodate a child that will miss school on (for example) Rosh Hashanah, etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 7:38 AM | Report abuse

"I have no problem generally with closing school on religious holidays, but - as a working parent - would prefer that the schools limit these to those that are also federal holidays"

In other words, Christian holidays. Name one Federal holiday which is religious and non-Christian.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 7:54 AM | Report abuse

This year in a certain NC school district they did not close for Rosh Hashanah. The Rabbis of the area urged parents to pull kids out as a way of showing the importance of the holiday, which I happen to agree with. But, on the other hand, I do think we are going to be faced with difficulties in the years ahead as the diversity of religious beliefs become more vocal. Should religious leaders be advocating non-attendance with Islamic student be pulled for Eid al-Fitr or Hindus or Buddhists for their more important of days? I have very fond memories of Christmas holidays but wonder if by selecting just Christian based holidays to schedule around we aren't contributing to more religious strife.

Posted by: NC mom | September 18, 2007 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Going to school in the New Orleans suburbs, schools were traditionally closed on Ash Wednesday - not because of the religious significance of the day, but in recognition of the fact that a good part of the students and faculty had been celebrating Mardi Gras the day before and weren't coming to school that day. The schools recognized that having school that day was simply a waste of time and money.

It simply makes sense to close schools on a day when no significant education activities are taking place.

Re: the larger question: why are schools closed for major breaks around Christian holidays and not others? I suspect that the answer is "tradition". So many people are used to the week between Christmas and New Years being "down time". (It's not just schools - many major manufacturers close plants for maintenance and upgrades during that week - so many people are going to be out that it makes economic sense to give everybody the week off and do the maintenance then.)

It could be changed to a different time, or winter and spring breaks could be cancelled altogether, but I suspect that the inertia required to make the change would be too much to overcome in most cases.

Re: holidays for other religions: Howard County public schools close for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when they fall on weekdays. The reason given is that Columbia had a substantial Jewish population in the first few years after its founding, so a lot of kids were out of school anyway. Even though (as a percentage of the population) the Jewish population isn't that large now, tradition still holds.

Howard County now has a very substantial Asian population, and there are groups asking that schools be closed in celebration of the Lunar New Year as a matter of "fairness". I suspect that that won't get far - unless the number of students and teachers who miss that day gets to the point where it makes education impractical. At that point, schools will be dismissed for Lunar New Year.

Posted by: Army Brat | September 18, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

You know what drives me crazy? Not that the kids have all those holidays, but this - several years ago, the local school system decided to change what used to be called Christmas and Easter holidays to be called Winter and Spring vacations. So, then a few years back, they added Rosh Hashanah and other Jewish holidays to the calendar. Why is it ok to refer to them by their religious names, but not ok to refer to the Christian names of other holidays?

Posted by: md mom | September 18, 2007 8:43 AM | Report abuse

"In other words, Christian holidays. Name one Federal holiday which is religious and non-Christian."

Are you serious?

New Year's Day
MLK Day
Inauguration Day
President's Day
Memorial Day
Independence Day
Lbor Day
Columbus Day
Veterans Day
Thanksgiving Day
Christmas Day

ONE is religious.

Posted by: atb | September 18, 2007 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Ooops. I misread you. None are religious and non-Christian. One is Christian. It's hardly outrageous.

Posted by: atb | September 18, 2007 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I think the main reason for the closing has less to do with students these days than with teachers and administrators. All you need is a minor percentage say 10-15% for it to be impossible for the schools to be open, especially if an equal percent of substitute teachers will be unavailable. I grew up in Columbia and saw plenty of my teachers at shul on the first day, so it is a consideration.

Posted by: Jonathan | September 18, 2007 8:54 AM | Report abuse

It all has to do with economics. If enough teachers are out, it's worthless. If more than 30% of kids are out, you dont get your school lunch program money.
Dont forget plenty of PA schools close for the first day of hunting season!

Posted by: inBoston | September 18, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Many school districs in Wisconsin close for the first week of hunting season. Now there's a state that has their priorities in order. It only makes practical sense for a school calendar to be influenced by economic factors, local interests, and/or projected participation.

People who cry "seperation of church and state" when public institutions close for the "winter holiday" or "spring break" or for that matter, "Saturday" or "Sunday" are not only whiners, but poor debaters to boot.

Posted by: ISquirtLikeOldFaithful | September 18, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Here's a different take on the situation. I'm an observant Jew who lives in Maine where the schools are open on all the Jewish holidays. My children do not attend school on the Jewish holidays, which seem to be virtually unknown in our school district. However, as my children are now in middle and high school, it becomes more and more difficult to keep them home on all the holidays because they just can't keep up with the work they miss. Regardless of the fact that religious observance is considered to be an "excused absence", the sheer quantity of quizzes, tests, assessments, in class assignments, homework, etc. that they miss is becoming unmanageable (not to mention sports...). Although it wouldn't be appropriate for schools to close for the small handful of students who take off for the holidays, an increased awareness would certainly help.

Posted by: maineminority | September 18, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Teacher "Professional Days" -- what are those exactly? --

This comment just goes to show how you feel about teachers - clearly you don't view them as professionals. "What could they possibly be doing?" you ask.

Teachers spend their whole day teaching your children. A professional day gives them the chance to work on things they can't accomplish with thirty kids in the room - collaborating with colleagues, meeting with parents, planning lessons, grading papers and tests, and attending continuing education seminars.

Think about how behind in your work you feel when you've spent the whole day in meetings. Now put yourself in the shoes of a teacher who basically spends all day, every day in "meetings" of some sort. You'd need a catch-up day too.

Posted by: taylor | September 18, 2007 9:11 AM | Report abuse

"Ooops. I misread you. None are religious and non-Christian. One is Christian. It's hardly outrageous."

And Inaguration Day only happens once every 4 years (and recently fell on MLK day so we didn't get an 11th holiday).

Also, only govt employees in the DC area get it off. Not a national holiday.

Posted by: to atb | September 18, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Way to go, Taylor! Frankly, teachers probably need even more professional days than they have, but from the parent's perspective, it's already bad enough!

Here's the only true problem with having a few extra days off (whether for Jewish or Muslim Holy Days, or for killing Bambi [grin].) It's wildly inconvenient for working parents. It is hopelessly naive to assume that employers should send all parents home paid on those days. And most working people only get 10 days vacation a year, which pretty well destroys a proper vacation. Not everyone lives within easy distance of unemployed grandparents.

I agree with all the posts that discuss the inherent logic of conceding the days when too many people will be gone anyway. But could we as a society figure out how to deal with the kids who WON'T be going to Temple that day, or have two parents who have to go to work? What a perfect opportunity for an extension of before/after care. With tutors for kids who want to use the time to catch up a bit.

A whole other conversation revolves around scheduling school...especially high school...so early in the day that older kids end up home for a number of unsupervised hours just at the age when they are most likely to need supervision! (NOT to imply that 6 year olds should be home alone.) And in the face of all the research that shows that teenagers really SHOULD be sleeping later in the first place.

Posted by: Erika | September 18, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I wrote a big long post and it did not get posted. I grew up in NY and we did have off for the two Jewish holidays. Winter break has been a tradition and they get away with it because it includes more then just Christmas and also includes the New Year, which is secular. I think you should check your information. A lot of spring breaks do not include Easter these days. Spring breaks seem to be staggered. I always thought that was due to different weather patterns and to accomdomate travelers. Notice that the prime time to go to Disney will include several weeks in the spring to account for the varied spring breaks. I think schools can't close for every holiday. Way too many religions. What they should do is allow any kid who wants to go to their religious institution a free pass for the day. My agency now offers two floating holidays. I agree, I really don't think the government should be offering Christmas as a holiday but I don't think it will change. It is too much a tradition. But allowing two floating holidays gives people of varied faiths the chance to celebrate their own holiday. They don't have to make up the time. Non religious people can do whatever they like with their two days. And while they have Christmas off too, I think most people see that as a "bonus" free day. Just like I see my two floating holidays as "bonus" free days. When I was kid, I loved having the Jewish holidays off too. What kid doesn't like a free day off? As far as teacher's professional days. I think they do a lot of in service work those days. They have group meetings within their schools and districts. They talk about policy changes, curriculum etc... Teachers seem to have more planning time then they did when I was a kid but I also think the quality of schools in the DC suburbs have also improved. It is a win win for all of us.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 9:32 AM | Report abuse

A whole other conversation revolves around scheduling school...especially high school...so early in the day that older kids end up home for a number of unsupervised hours just at the age when they are most likely to need supervision! (NOT to imply that 6 year olds should be home alone.) And in the face of all the research that shows that teenagers really SHOULD be sleeping later in the first place.

Posted by: Erika | September 18, 2007 09:26 AM

Erika, this has to do with staggering the buses. The school districts want to limit their transportation costs. Transportation costs are huge for school districts. Also people think the elementary school students who do walk to school, should not be walking in the dark (say 6:30 Am). Although I wonder if that really happens all that much. The kids with working parents probably drive them now at around 7 am to before school care and the walkers probably have stay at home parents who could walk with them or drive them.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I agree with those who point out that at some point it just makes sense to close schools when a decent portion of the teachers or students won't be there, whether that's for a religious holiday or hunting season. And I don't think the considerations of working parents should be a factor in making these decisions--working parents have to suck it up and learn to make accommodations for school schedules all the time, so one day here and there really doesn't make a difference, and since the academic calendar is published MONTHS in advance, you have plenty of time to get your act together and either take some time off yourself or find someone else to watch your children for the day.

I do wish, however, that public schools would stop having their spring break coincide with the Easter holidays. It seems so disruptive to me since Easter moves around from year to year--you have kids taking spring break in late March one year and late April another year. This can't be easy for the teachers trying to plan curriculum and projects and tests, knowing that the kids are going to get a week-long break at odd times from one year to the next. Why not schedule Spring Break at a time that's good for the schools/teachers/kids and then get Good Friday as a religious holiday off, just as Rosh Hashanah is given as a day off now?

And Professional Days for teachers are not just a good idea, they are absolutely necessary, especially now with NCLB requiring "highly qualified" teachers. This gives the teachers days during the year to pursue professional development activities so that they can continue to be good teachers.

Posted by: Sarah | September 18, 2007 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Another take on Professional Days, etc. - when I have extra work to do, and can't accomplish it during regular work hours, I take it home with me and work on it in the evening or on the weekend. Of course, I don't have union protection for my job...

Now, don't get me wrong. I think we need to pay good teachers MUCH more than they are paid. They do something I couldn't do in a million years, teach other people's children. But, if we are paying them more and treating them more professionally, they need to understand that they may have to work like other professionals do too.

Posted by: another perspective | September 18, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Taylor, for posting about professional development days. I was going to say something similar about the lack of respect for teachers lurking in Stacey's comment. I doubt she questions her own co-workers going to seminars or conferences or taking a day every 2-3 months to turn off the electronic devices and get caught up on paper work.

About spring break being near Easter: I agree with foamgnome about it not being near Easter in many areas. It has never been scheduled around Easter in my state. Very occasionally it falls that way, but spring break is scheduled the same week each year while Easter moves around.

Posted by: Ramona | September 18, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Oh please Taylor, you should respect teachers enough to realize that they are capable of having meetings, doing professional development, and catching up on work when their classes are in PE class, Music class, and a after their classes leave school by 3:00 every day. Frankly, I don't have a problem with a teach workday every quarter, it's the early release once a week that baffles me.

Posted by: Time | September 18, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

foamgnome--I do understand about the staggered buses. I also understand about the walking in the daytime bit, though I think that's a bit useless as an argument in many areas, as schools are frequently NOT neighborhood based anymore, even elementary. And for example, my son's school doesn't even have sidewalks around it because that would be pointless...none of the roads near it have sidewalks. Trust me, I bring this up regularly at town meetings. I'm SO popular...not.

But if you're staggering buses, take into account that younger kids are actually largely very alert pretty early in the day and research shows that teenagers should be sleeping longer. So I think some real thought should be given to flipping the busing schedule. Where it all falls apart is the extraordinarily over-scheduled after school sports and other events. If teenagers did 9-5 instead of 8-4, families would be eating dinner at 8pm most nights. Something wrong with that, in my opinion. Sigh.

Posted by: Erika | September 18, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

"But, if we are paying them more and treating them more professionally, they need to understand that they may have to work like other professionals do too."

Are you serious? Do you think that teachers only work when they're at school? Have you ever MET a teacher? Most take more work home than you could ever imagine.

Professional Development Days are not just for catching up on work - they're for teachers to continue their, well, professional development. As in attend training sessions and seminars and meetings to learn about curriculum and teaching method changes and things like NCLB.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Erika, I hear you. And like I said, I think that kids today get driven to school more often then not. Personally the whole walking argument doesn't really fly with me. Because unless the little kid is a latch key kid, they have a parent who in the very least could walk with them in the dark. But I think most kids I see are either being bused or driven to school. But maybe this encourages walking. Who knows. But I once had this discussion with a mother whose kid walks and she flipped out on me about her kid walking at 6:30 am. Then I suggested she walk him to school and she got even madder.:)

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

In service days, includes a lot of full district meetings and seminars. They can't get all the teachers together during music and PE because the kids do not take PE at the same time. Besides the fact that PE teachers would need to be at the same meeting. I don't think people realize that the profession has changed a lot these days. I went to the Back to school night a few weeks ago. Teachers now go through peer review, continuing educational seminars, and a bunch of stuff they didn't do in the old days. I think the half day Monday thing is unique to Fairfax. I still think it is a bit strange. The kids do go to school the same amount as other school districts because they stay longer the other days. I once compared the bell schedule and found Fairfax was open a similar number of minutes as other districts. It was just spread out differently. I think it is just for elementary school too. But the kids who go to after school care are covered during half day Mondays. Stay at home kids just go home. The only real problem is latch key kids. I guess the argument is they are not home alone as much the other four days because school is about a half an hour longer T-F.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

fr another perspective: >...Now, don't get me wrong. I think we need to pay good teachers MUCH more than they are paid. They do something I couldn't do in a million years, teach other people's children. But, if we are paying them more and treating them more professionally, they need to understand that they may have to work like other professionals do too.

You DO realize that teachers have to prep for the next day, hold parent-teacher conferences, grade papers, insure little johnny can actually READ, AND take continuing education so they can keep their license, don't you? Teachers do NOT get all summer off, and they work a heck of a lot MORE than "other professionals do". In short, get educated, and grow UP.

Posted by: Alex51 | September 18, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

What is the point of all of this "continuing ed"? The field of Elementary Algebra has not changed much since the 1600s. Neither has Modern Calculus. I suppose History changes from time to time, but even then, most history books stop in the mid 20th century.

All kidding aside, why can't schools just bring in subs for staff inservice days? They're cheap (about $100/day), and the schools could easily ask parents to chip in that money.

I'd gladly chip in a few bucks to not have to figure out what to do with my kids for the day.

Posted by: Bob | September 18, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

In short, get educated, and grow UP.

Posted by: Alex51 | September 18, 2007 10:05 AM

I'd try, but I'm sure some teacher would just leave me behind as they are wont to do.

Posted by: Bob | September 18, 2007 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I do not think closing school on Roshashanna or Christmas violates separation of Church and State. You are given a day off to do what you want, whether that is going to Temple or playing Nintendo. We don't have school on Sunday or Saturday either, for religious reasons, and no one can colorably argue that is a violation of church and state. Moreover, requiring attendance to school on Roshashanna or Christmas would in fact violate your first amendment right to freedom of religion, thus I think making it a holiday is the appropriate thing to do.

This is a country of people with deep faith, whose religious beliefs are critically important to their daily lives. Schools ought not stand in the way of exercising those beliefs. For many of us, attending church or temple is as important as going to school. These are our fundamentally part of our belief system passed down for more than a thousand years (for some of us much more than a thousand years). We live in a nation that is founded on judeo-christian values, whether you adopt those yourself or not. And for those of us that continue to hold to those values, we should have the opportunity to observe our traditions.

Posted by: Cliff | September 18, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Bob: I am not a teacher but I think I can answer your question. Although the subject matter has not changed for 100s of years (Math), the way to teach it has changed. The theories behind cognitive development or "best" practices change all the time. They have learned a lot about the way kids learn. Now granted sometimes they change things like phonics to whole english and after 10-15 years decide that the old way was better. But they have to try new things. I know for special education, they have learned a whole lot in the last few decades. But if I am wrong, could the teachers please jump in. But if you ever read the course descriptions of the education majors. It has very little to do with actual subject matter. The knowledge is about how to teach. Not what to teach.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

In other words, Christian holidays. Name one Federal holiday which is religious and non-Christian.

Martin Luth King Day
Memorial Day
Veterans' Day

Posted by: momof3boys | September 18, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

OMG I can't believe you're advocating for substitute teachers (usually wasted days) just so you don't have to pay for and arrange childcare. You know about these days off FAR in advance, so just find child care and get over it. And please don't suggest that those of us who have structured our lives to take care of our kids when they're not in school actually pay for substitute teachers for your child.

Posted by: to Bob | September 18, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

"In other words, Christian holidays. Name one Federal holiday which is religious and non-Christian.

Martin Luth King Day
Memorial Day
Veterans' Day"

Please explain how MLK day, Memorial day, and Veterans' day are religious.

Posted by: to momof3boys | September 18, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

"OMG I can't believe you're advocating for substitute teachers (usually wasted days) just so you don't have to pay for and arrange childcare. You know about these days off FAR in advance, so just find child care and get over it. And please don't suggest that those of us who have structured our lives to take care of our kids when they're not in school actually pay for substitute teachers for your child."

Posted by: to Bob | September 18, 2007 10:47 AM

In class with a sub is a "wasted day"? Remember the alternative is a day at home playing video games.

I realize that I know the days off far in advance, but so do the schools. Why is it so unreasonable for them to bring in subs?

Also, I never said that those who have alternative care arranged should have to pay for the subs. I said that those who want to use the service could chip in.

But please don't let that interrupt your medium-quality rant.

Posted by: Bob | September 18, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Umm, Bob, I hate to use this phrase, but

Do the Math.

According to their web sites, Howard County Public Schools employ 3,308 teachers. (It's a small district.)

Montgomery County Public Schools have 8,960.

Okay, let's assume that there are almost 9,000 substitute teachers in Montgomery County who have been approved to be in classrooms, and are all willing to work on the same day. (I suspect there's nowhere near that number, but let's assume that there are.)

If they indeed cost $100 each per day, then subs for one day would cost the Montgomery County taxpayers $896,000.

We in Howard County would get off cheap; it would only set us back $330,800.

You want the schools to spend that much money so that you and some other parents who can't adequately plan given 8 months advance notice don't have to worry about day care for your kids? Do you honestly think that the school systems have that much extra money floating around in their budgets? Almost a million dollars for Montgomery County?

Or will parents be so thrilled with the "daycare" that school provides that they'll willingly increase their taxes or just voluntarily write additional checks to pay for it?

And, while we're doing the math, let's not forget - the schools are in session for 178 days. If the professional days become instructional days (albeit with thousands of substitutes), that shortens the school year. Your children will now get out almost a week earlier because they went to school on those three or four days. You have to arrange child care for those days, instead of the professional days.

Or did you think that the schools would now lengthen the instructional year to 182 days at zero extra cost?

Do the math, Bob.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I'm Muslim and grew up taking off Islamic holidays for school (it was an excused absence). As I grew older, it became harded because of all the work I had to make up, but it was still something important to me and I told all the teachers in advance so I could work out a good make-up schedule. If a school district has many kids from one religious group that takes off, then it makes sense to close the school. On the other hand, I feel that schools that don't close should have a liberal policy towards religious holidays so kid to do want to take off can and will be able to make up all their exams, homework and not have the absence count against them toward final exam exemptions (do they even still do that?). Anyways, I was very blessed to go to a school with an understanding administration, but I hope more districts make this policy.

Posted by: mommywriter | September 18, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, ArmyBrat, for clearing up Bob's inadequate understanding of what it would take to bring in subs instead of closing the schools for professional days. I was just going to do the math across one school--it's much more effective when looked at from the perspecive of an entire county!

Posted by: Sarah | September 18, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Do the math, Bob.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 11:16 AM

Ok, I'll do the math.

One sub can watch 25 kids for one day for $100. Each parent who signs up in advance to use this service would have to pay $4 per child per day to cover the cost of the sub. Heck, make it $6 per child per day to cover the cost of the bus driver.

Who taught you math, big guy?

Posted by: Bob | September 18, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Bob: You forgot one part of your equation. Out of the 25 kids, 20 of them already have prearranged child care situations or stay at home family members. Now five kids are going to pony up $20 a piece. It is still cheaper then getting a private daycare but try getting that out of some parents! Some parents don't even want to give a dollar to the school system.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I appoint Bob to collect all the money. Good luck, big guy!!

Posted by: Oy. | September 18, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Christmas and Easter also fall around Hannukah and Passover. Stop bad-mouthing Christian holidays. Jews need to take time after Christmas because they own all the stores and want to go on exotic vacations to spend their Christmas windfall. At our Firm, Jewish employees are allowed to take time for their holidays, like Yom Kippur. However, most holidays begin at sundown so they can put in a day's work and still celebrate.

My holidays involve mostly gathering with my family anyway, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas or July 4th. It's not ALL about religion. The long summer vacation was started to allow the entire family, including kids, to work on the farms during the growing season and harvest. How many of you have farms that need the kids to work during the summer? Go find your camps for your spoiled kids and stop whining.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I don't know any parents who have kids that get the Jewish holidays off anymore. Too many kids in private schools I guess. I thought that trend was over.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Bob: You forgot one part of your equation. Out of the 25 kids, 20 of them already have prearranged child care situations or stay at home family members.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 11:53 AM

Who says the 25 kids have to be in the same class?

This would be an optional service. Those who do not want to contribute even $1 are free to seek alternative child care on the open market. God bless America.

Posted by: Bob | September 18, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Are you serious? Do you think that teachers only work when they're at school? Have you ever MET a teacher? Most take more work home than you could ever imagine.
-----

BULL!

When my mother retired she became a teacher's aide. It's not a full-time job, it's a relaxed job.

I work in software development and it's not uncommon for us to put in 70 hour weeks and sometimes have vacations canceled because of missed deadlines. I live next door to a group house of young teachers and they're home by 5pm every day. The day they're at work at 11pm for 4 days straight working on a deadline is the day I will let you say that teaching is like other jobs.

It's not.

I know teachers and all of them say that it involves almost no overtime past 40 hours and even when it does, it's things like reading book reviews or doing library research to gather material for a curriculum. Four of the teachers next door moved to Italy for the July and August because they didn't need to be at school from July 1-August 15. Does ANYONE ELSE have such a job?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Bob, what are you going to do with the kids when their parents will send their kid to school and not pay the $20. It is a public school. You are not allowed to charge them for going to school, if it is considered a legitmate day of school. Or are you just suggesting the subs as an occasional babysitting serive-like before or after school care? Then your really not suggesting schools stay open, your suggesting schools provide a low cost day care arrangement. I am not against that, I am just saying it is not a school day anyway.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

""We don't have school on Sunday or Saturday either, for religious reasons, and no one can colorably argue that is a violation of church and state. Moreover, requiring attendance to school on Roshashanna or Christmas would in fact violate your first amendment right to freedom of religion, thus I think making it a holiday is the appropriate thing to do.""

Are you kidding? I am Wiccan, a member of a federally-recognized minority religion. Are you suggesting that the fact that schools were open and expected my attendance during the eight major holy days of my religious calendar violated my first amendment rights? What nonsense. Religious holidays are excused absences for kids whose families choose to keep them home, but the only good reason to close schools for them is if the local population has a large enough number of observant coreligionists that a large percentage of teachers and students would be absent that day. Those of us who practice minority faiths just need to suck it up. I went to school on holy days, and now I work on holy days, and conduct my religious observance on my own time. If I want to take the day off for more concentrated religious activity, I burn a vacation day.

And yes, I can "colorably" argue about the religious nature of Sunday laws. In Minnesota, for example, I cannot buy liquor on Sundays. There's no justification for that other than Christian sensibilities, and yes I DO object on grounds of separation of church and state.

Posted by: Northern Girl | September 18, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Jews need to take time after Christmas because they own all the stores and want to go on exotic vacations to spend their Christmas windfall.

Antisemtic? Wow. How rude.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Please explain how MLK day, Memorial day, and Veterans' day are religious.
----

Memorial day is religious. You remember the dead. Maybe YOU don't do that, but I work with someone who treats it very religiously, attending to graves at his church. Ok, maybe almost no one does that, but I really do work with a guy who spends that weekend memorializing people who passed away or were killed in the military.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Why aren't teacher professional days scheduled during winter and spring vacation weeks? Kids are going to be out of school anyway.

Posted by: Curious | September 18, 2007 12:13 PM | Report abuse

You DO realize that teachers have to prep for the next day, hold parent-teacher conferences, grade papers, insure little johnny can actually READ, AND take continuing education so they can keep their license, don't you? Teachers do NOT get all summer off, and they work a heck of a lot MORE than "other professionals do". In short, get educated, and grow UP.
----

I don't think there's anyone working for a private company that would agree with you.

And I know teachers who get 6 weeks off in the summer, that might not be "all" summer, but I get one week vacation for summer and one week at Xmas.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

"Then your really not suggesting schools stay open, your suggesting schools provide a low cost day care arrangement. I am not against that, I am just saying it is not a school day anyway."

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 12:05 PM

Yes, this is correct. I am NOT advocating that the inservice days be ordinary instructional days. I'm sorry if I was unclear on this.

I was advocating using subs as babysitters--not in a teaching capacity. I brought up subs only because it is a ready pool of individuals who are already qualified to work with the kids.

As for what the kids should do all day, for older kids, they could show an educational movie or two and have the rest be study hall and some Socratic Debate thrown in fore good measure. For younger kids, maybe a few movies and outdoor activities.

But, no, something like this should not be counted as an ordinary school day.

Posted by: Bob | September 18, 2007 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Why aren't teacher professional days scheduled during winter and spring vacation weeks? Kids are going to be out of school anyway.

Posted by: Curious | September 18, 2007 12:13 PM

Acutally that is a good suggestion. My guess is that we assume the teacher break to recoup their energy for the kids. Personally, I would rather have my kids teacher be well rested on breaks. So that they come back full of energy. Kind of like we all go to work after a break with our kids to get our energy back. :) Kids take a lot out of you.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Schools can also accommodate kids who take off their religious holidays by not scheduling quizes, exams, due dates for papers, etc. on those days.

Posted by: destinysmom | September 18, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Bob, then what you are suggesting makes sense. Heck if it is just babysitting, I don't see why they should necessarily do anything educational. I think a day of fun is fine. My guess it has something to do with the schools not thinking it is their responsibility. But then again if the need was great they would jump up to the plate. Just as they have with before and after school care.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

It looks like two separate reasons are being given for not wanting schools to close for Rosh Hashanah: difficulty in arranging childcare, and separation of state. Which is it?

The former is just the usual gripe of working parents who are inconvenienced when the world doesn't conform to their schedule. Note to working parents: you can't have it all. If childcare is that difficult to arrange, maybe it's time to downsize and live off one income. And for those who are single parents by choice, how about recognizing that single parenthood isn't an equally good choice when compared to having a mother and a father?

The latter looks like an argument used out of convenience, kind of as an afterthought, by those whose primary concern is childcare arrangements. Just because a school recognizes that it is not practical to stay open for financial and educational reasons when a majority of students and teachers will not attend, does not necessarily mean that the state is sponsoring one religion over another.

And for the one who said "In other words, Christian holidays. Name one Federal holiday which is religious and non-Christian.":

Only one holiday coincides with a Christian holiday: Christmas. Nine others are secular. That's hardly an indictment. Instead of griping about the origin of national holidays, you should count your blessings that you live in a country where you can practice whatever religion you choose 365 days a year.

Posted by: sean | September 18, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I live in Garland TX, which is a suburb of Dallas. All the school districts in the North Texas area give students a day off to attend the State Fair of Texas. The fair usually runs for 3 weeks from end of September to mid-October. They even provide the students with a free ticket. My sons school district in Garland always gives them the first 2 days off in October, one for the
State Fair and the other for a teacher in service day.
I always loved going to the Fair on a school day when I was growing up and it's been a very special day for my son and I. This time off from school has nothing to do with anyone's religion, just the joy of being fortunate to grow up a Texan.

Posted by: NanFan56 | September 18, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Schools can also accommodate kids who take off their religious holidays by not scheduling quizes, exams, due dates for papers, etc. on those days.
----

Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda did this for Ramadan or Eid in the 1980s and also... I cannot spell this correctly, so please don't be offended, the Hindu celebration where people give gifts every six months... is that spelled Diwahli? Either way the rule was no tests on those days, no tests on Easter Monday, on Purim, etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I guess I don't understand why schools can't give a student two+ floating holidays a year so they can be absent for whatever religious holiday or meaningful day they'd like. Christmas is a federal holiday, and I don't see that changing any time soon, but Christians might opt to take Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Jews could take Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, and Muslims could take Ramadan and another holiday (I apologize but am not well versed in Islamic holidays). These days would not count as absences of any kind, excused or otherwise. Wouldn't that work?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 18, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree with those who've posted about days off for hunting, state fairs etc.... Don't get your panties in a twist over the religion aspect of the fall Jewish holidays -- it's a local custom.

There are also a bunch of other minor fall Jewish holidays where the rule is that no homework is assigned for that night. Maybe up-county they don't abide by that, but down-county they do.

Montgomery County always arranges it's Spring Break so it covers Good Friday and Easter Monday. Maybe it's religious, maybe it's that all the staff wants those days off. It's just one of those things you get used to.

Posted by: RoseG | September 18, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Sean has all the answers!

"If childcare is that difficult to arrange, maybe it's time to downsize and live off one income."

Sell that 2nd car and stop eating pizza once a week and you can be a SAHP!! I bet you didn't know it was that simple! Hoorah for Sean and his big brain!

Posted by: atb | September 18, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

"Please explain how MLK day, Memorial day, and Veterans' day are religious.
----

Memorial day is religious. You remember the dead. Maybe YOU don't do that, but I work with someone who treats it very religiously, attending to graves at his church. Ok, maybe almost no one does that, but I really do work with a guy who spends that weekend memorializing people who passed away or were killed in the military."

Again, explain how that is a RELIGIOUS holiday - you know, something based from a religion. There is nothing religious about remembering the dead.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

"And for the one who said "In other words, Christian holidays. Name one Federal holiday which is religious and non-Christian.":

Only one holiday coincides with a Christian holiday: Christmas. Nine others are secular. That's hardly an indictment. Instead of griping about the origin of national holidays, you should count your blessings that you live in a country where you can practice whatever religion you choose 365 days a year"

I said that in response to a poster (at 07:38 AM) that schools should only close on a religious holiday which falls on a federal holiday. Simply pointing out that the religious holidays which are also federal holidays are Christian holidays. And therefore, this poster was only advocating closing schools on Christian holidays.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

In Illinois, the schools receive state funding based on the number of students who attend school on each individual date. If half the kids skip school to observe a religious holiday, the school loses a significant chunk of its state funds for that day. It's cheaper to simply close the school.

The majority of the students in our district are Christian, so the schools are routinely closed on Good Friday, or spring break is scheduled to include Good Friday and Easter. We also have a sizable Jewish population, so the schools are closed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. No other religious group constitutes a high enough percentage of students that it is cost effective to close on their holiday observances. The administration, however, has never given me a hard time when I've pulled my children out of school for Greek Orthodox observances, which don't always coincide with the "Western" Christian calendar.

Posted by: Chicago Gal | September 18, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

What a day to read this blog late. A lot of catching up to do for me it seems.

Insert wall of text

By Stacey Garfinkle @ September 18, 2007; 7:00 AM ET

"Teacher "Professional Days" -- what are those exactly?"

I have to admit I am surprised that people are unfamiliar with what these days are for. While definately an irritant for parents, they are a godsend for teachers.

First off, most states require a certain amount of hours in workshops organized on these days for re-liscensure. Other professions, such as Doctors, are required to do such things as well, though my experience tends to suggest they get to go to Costa Rica. Teachers get to go "downtown."

Then there is also the issue of staff meetings, which while generally occurring before or after school hours, sometimes need to be longer, particularly if someone from outside of the school is going to be there. You might think of these kinda of like staff retreats or team-building days for other offices.

And, most importantly, the day provides time to get caught up on a teacher's administrative duties. My experience indicates that most good teachers spend between 1-3 hours outside of school per day on things like grading, disciplinary actions, talking to parents, aforementioned staff meetings, and dealing with the papertrail that accompanies students with disabilities. Also, many teachers also put in time coaching or taking responsibility for for other extra curriculars. This eats time that you could (should?) be spending updating web content, submitting grades, revising grades, or allowing students to make up work they have missed.

Somewhat related to this is...

Posted by Curious @ September 18, 2007 12:13 PM

"Why aren't teacher professional days scheduled during winter and spring vacation weeks? Kids are going to be out of school anyway."

Most schools I know of do schedule teacher working days at these times, specifically the day(s) before students come back (or durring the summer, the week before students come back). I suspect it varies from district to district on which days are designated.

Posted by Anonymous @ September 18, 2007 07:54 AM

"In other words, Christian holidays. Name one Federal holiday which is religious and non-Christian."

Tough one. The closest I have to think would be Thanksgiving, though I would guess this is not specifically what you mean (e.g. Getting Rosh Hoshanna status as a Fedreral Holiday, or Samhain for "Northern Girl".) Thanksgiving is definately religious for many people, though is not specifically Christian. It is more co-opted by religion rather than being religious by nature.

The analysis that suggests we have holidays at set times because of tradition I think is largely correct. The perfect example would be summer vacation, which harkens back to planning around an agricultural calender. I know this is somewhat sacraligious, but most Christian Holidays are based in the same calendar in any case, hence why they tend to fall in alignment with school vacations. Whether one or the other is responsibile is a chicken and egg arguement I shouldn't get into.

Posted by Bob @ September 18, 2007 10:16 AM

"All kidding aside, why can't schools just bring in subs for staff inservice days? They're cheap (about $100/day), and the schools could easily ask parents to chip in that money."

You should definately get in touch with your local school board, I think this is an excellent idea. There could be something, also, to extending this kind of idea to deal with the reverse of question of holidays (i.e. What do you do if your child has a holiday but you do not).

I would anticipate that you will run into the following objections:

-Insufficient number of substitute teachers.
-Insufficient resources to hire an administrator for the program.
-Insufficient space (problem in certain school districts)
-Politics (the school board does not want to get into the childcare buisness and "compete" with the private sector)

I wish you the best of luck, I am sure some teachers would go in for it as well to get the extra income.

By Stacey Garfinkle @ September 18, 2007; 7:00 AM ET

"Teacher "Professional Days" -- what are those exactly?"

I have to admit I am surprised that people are unfamiliar with what these days are for. While definately an irritant for parents, they are a godsend for teachers.

First off, most states require a certain amount of hours in workshops organized on these days for re-liscensure.

Posted by: David S | September 18, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Pardon for the bit of repetition at the end of the last post, I thought I had deleted that.

Posted by: David S | September 18, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Replying to a bunch of things at once:

Bob:
"Who taught you math, big guy?"

Undergrad, or grad school? Or were you more interested in the colleges at which I used to teach math.

Seriously, though, I missed that you were talking about "using schools as locations for daycare centers" vice "keeping the schools open" - that puts a very different spin on things. I think some places actually do do that, with County Recreation and Parks employees running an all-day "after care" program. Not at every school, but at a few around the county.


anon @ 12:05
There's a big difference between being a teacher and being a teacher's aide. I agree that teacher's aides often don't have responsibilities outside of the classroom that consume much time, but teachers do.

Also, about those teachers home by 5 pm: you meant to tell me that they never had to go back in the evening for "back to school night?" Or for parent/teacher conferences? Or for band concerts, school plays, sports events? PTA meetings? There was never anything after school? All of the schools I know around here require some level of participation in the evenings - I'd be shocked if those teachers next door never had to do any of that.

And their overtime work is only "reading book reviews or doing library research to gather material for a curriculum"? How is that less work? I've worked in system design and software development myself for 25 years now; I'm familiar with what it entails. How would you like someone saying that your 70 hour weeks are spent only "testing and fixing the code you already wrote?" Patronizing much?

anon @ 12:14
"I don't think there's anyone working for a private company that would agree with you."

I agree with the statement, and I have worked for several private companies and currently work for a private company. On the other hand, I grew up with a mother who was a teacher; my sister and niece are teachers; and I know a number of other teachers. So I actually understand what it takes to be a GOOD teacher, and I agree with the statement made - good teachers work as much as or more than other professionals.

WorkingMomX - I guess I don't see the difference between "floating holidays" and excused absences. Every school district that I know about grants excused absences for religious observances if school is not closed. The only thing I could see different with a "floating holiday" is that a student out for one might not have to make up work assigned that day, but that to me is a pretty minor point. Is there something else you meant that I'm missing?

NanFan - in school in Louisiana we always got one day off to go to the Parish Fair. Since the Louisiana State Fair is in Shreveport, at the other end of the state, we didn't get off to go there, but we always got one Friday in late September to head to the Parish Fair. I don't think I ever actually went, but it was nice to have the day off.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Growing up, my school in NJ did not have formal days off for Jewish holidays, or any other religious days except Easter. Not even Good Friday. However, there were never any tests or big assignments due on those days either.
This year, at back to school night the teachers made it clear that homework would not be given out during Rosh Hashana.

Bob's idea is really already available - most formal after school care facilities are open to accept students on 1/2 days and full days off. Some are even located at the school. But, to think that the schools should be responsible for providing care - I can see that causing even more problems. Parents complaining about what activities are planned, there are standards that have to be met regarding care - % of time outside, meals, etc. It's not just gathering a few substitutes to sit around and start the VCR.

Parents know about these days way in advance - plan for it accordingly and stop the moaning and groaning. If you don't use a formal after-school care facility, talk to your neighbors, your kids friends - what do they do? Can you share the days off - you take one, they take another? When all else fails, you just gotta take a vacation day. And I know that not everyone works at a job with vacation days, it's either work or don't get paid. But that goes back to - you know months in advance, plan for it.

This flows to the topic of parents who complain about snow days extending the school year. They had vacations planned that they are now missing! It is written on the calendar (at least in MoCo) how many days the year will be extended due to snow. Why must these parents plan vacation the very next day after the 'scheduled' last day of school? It's usually not even a Friday.

Posted by: prarie dog | September 18, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Prarie Dog, good point about parents not planning for snow days. For the 2007-2008 school year, the last scheduled day for Howard County schools is June 12. However, it's very clearly stated that up to six inclement weather days can be scheduled after that. School may go as late as June 20.

So, IMNSHO, anyone who schedules a family vacation starting on June 13 is a little bit naive.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing religious about remembering the dead.
----

Do you belong to a church? There's this concept of "heaven" see and it revolves around dead people and it's kind of a major tenet of the big three western religions...

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Do you belong to a church? There's this concept of "heaven" see and it revolves around dead people and it's kind of a major tenet of the big three western religions...

Yes, but some people aren't religious. And for them, there is nothing religious about remembering the dead. So then what?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 18, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Mostly just want to say thanks for Stacey for listening to her posters and giving us good feedback to chew on in topics.

But also want to say I think the deeper issue here is that "we" are all stuck in the old traditional ways of doing things. I really do think all year school with regular longish breaks is best for everyone. It keeps the kids on the same schedule as the adults pretty much.

The other problem is that taking a day or two off every now and then should NOT be a problem to make up. We're SO results and testing and grades focused, we teach them to become the people who work to live- rather than balance life and work productively. Teaching kids that taking a break for your LIFE priorities should itself be a priority and something that should not cause huge issues.

I'm just sorry for the kids who have to deal with the broken system we hand them. They are the ones who are taught if they don't learn Algebra II by the time they get to high school, there's almost NO way they can get into a high level college, and then NO way they can get that really good paying job to pay for a fairly decent life. We create and then reinforce it- and they get caught into it before they get a chance to make any choice at all.

Posted by: Liz D | September 18, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing religious about remembering the dead.
----

Do you belong to a church? There's this concept of "heaven" see and it revolves around dead people and it's kind of a major tenet of the big three western religions...

Posted by: | September 18, 2007 01:56 PM

Yes, yes, yes, many religions and many religious people have some sort of practice or ritual for remembering and honoring their dead. Don't most Christian sects have All Saints Day, or All Souls Day, (or something like that?) around the end of October or beginning of November?

My religion is Wicca, too, (who knew there was more than one of us posting!?!?!?), and we honor our beloved dead every year at Samhain, which is around that time of year.

Memorial Day is about remembering those who died serving our country in the armed forces. That's secular, not religious.

Posted by: Sue | September 18, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I suggest removal of the comment about Jews owning all the stores and needing Christmas week off to spend their windfall. Extremely anti-Semitic.

Posted by: Suggest Removal | September 18, 2007 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Northern Girl-

I think you've proved my point. Blue laws have been in effect for decades, and Sunday and Saturdays have been non-school days forever. If there was a serious argument that this was a violation of church and state, the Supreme Court would have ruled so by now.

But you are right that the reality is that schools won't shut for every religion (like Wiccans), and bend only to the majorities. But arguing that it is a violation of church and state is balderdash. The state is not endorsing the religion (or establishing as the constitution actually reads), its merely recognizing the reality that a critical mass of children/teachers will not attend those days. By your reasoning, allowing excused absences for wiccan and other religious holidays would also violate the separation of church and state.

Posted by: Cliff | September 18, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Yes, but some people aren't religious. And for them, there is nothing religious about remembering the dead. So then what?
----
So then they accept that other people have a religious component to it.

I'm the poster who remarked several times. I am a complete and total atheist, so as an outsider I recognize what's intrinsically religious and what isn't. I do not believe there is any honoring or remembering the dead that doesn't revolve around religion and ideas of an afterlife. People who are strongly atheistic usually don't care about dead people like those who believe their thoughts and feelings hold mystical significance in the ether. People who have a vague religious belief but are not atheists usually feel there is minor significance to karma-type actions even thoughts! Let's say... using MLK's actions to spur one to positive action on MLK day. However memorializing people or their spirit is religious in nature.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

To the anonymous person who wrote about Jews not needing days off because their holiday begins at sundown, it might be good to become more informed. The holidays begin at sundown and extend until sundown the following evening, during which time work is prohibited.

Posted by: Offended | September 18, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

We get saturday's off thanks to unions working in the post-war era, not and never for religious reasons.

My parents were required to work saturdays prior to WW2. The thing was you'd work 5 days, 8-10 hour days, then Saturday you'd come in and either clean the machines (my father) or file all the correspondence and correct typewritten reports (my mother) and you'd usually get done by noon or 1pm. My wife's parents did the same thing, worked half days on saturdays. This changed when the unions took over around WW2 and by the 1950s the 40 hour work week seemed standard.

I'm sure someone will try to correct me, but I've said my peace.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm a software developer too -- if anyone tried to 'cancel' my vacation, my resignation would be in after as long as it takes to write it. I'm good at what I do, I can find another job. It's generally only people who aren't very good at their jobs who put up with crap like that. I wouldn't put up with 70 hour weeks on any kind of regular basis, either... on very rare occasion it might be needed, and that's fine (but I'd better get some extra compensation for it). Seriously people, grow a frickin' backbone.

Sorry, that was a bit off-topic, and it's obvious the person I'm responding to knows nothing about teaching.

Posted by: ro | September 18, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, that was a bit off-topic, and it's obvious the person I'm responding to knows nothing about teaching.
----

Right, 12 years of schooling, a mother who worked for MCPS for nearly 10 years and who still volunteers as a literacy aide and being the neighbors of a group of teachers who know exactly how lucky they are to get summers off and not to have to work overtime... sure, I'M the one who doesn't know and you do. And my mother, the teacher's aide somehow "doesn't know" and my friends the teachers somehow "don't know" when they tell me how lucky they are.

I mean, I went and talked to a guy over lunch whose wife teaches and he said she's home every day by 4:30 and what work she does from home, she can do very casually without having to travel to Iraq for installations or being forced to work nights to meet a deadline. So I guest he, as a husband, "Doesn't know."

And the only people who "know" are the ones saying it's hard.

This is getting awfully schoolyardy, wouldn't you agree?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

When I was a kid, my school gave out perfect-attendance awards, which I NEVER got because of Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. I went through life thinking the deck was stacked against me because I was born a Jew. Of course, as an adult taking a Masters in Education, I'm now seeing a whole school of thought that says things like perfect attendance awards ARE harmful to kids, precisely for things like doctor's appointments and religious obligation.

Posted by: Kat | September 18, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

There is no use whatsoever in this life for algebra. I never took it in high school; had to take Algebra 101 in college, which I passed with a C, the lowest grade I got in college. I have never used it since and can't remember a thing about it except x = unknown.

However, I for one has had their vacation denied because all the mothers wanted time off in April for spring break and religious holidays. I was denied taking time off during that period because 'they' got first choice. I had to cash in my vacation at July 1 unused.

Posted by: x = unknown | September 18, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Haven't read all the posts, but...I grew up in a very Jewish area, and we had off two days for Rosh Hashana and one for Yom Kippur. Then we would have our spring break during Passover (and yes, we also had winter break).

During the 'lesser' fall holidays, though, we'd convince our teachers to not give homework/tests/quizzes, since there would be lots of kids out for those holidays as well. We kids knew all the rules (if more than 20% of the kids were out, no homework/quizzes/tests).

One year, when Passover wasn't near to Easter, we even got an extra few days off - Ash Wednesday (?), Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter (or Holy?) Monday (what the heck is that?). None of us kids knew what it was, but we were happy to have the time off.

My son, along with many of his Jewish classmates were out last week for the holiday and the world kept going on. It's so not like NY here, though, where they run extra trains on the Jewish holidays, so people can get out of work early and get home. Traffic's pretty much the same...

Posted by: atlmom | September 18, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

OK, so now you're badmouthing Christian holidays. Why are you so offended about mentioned Jewish holidays, but let 'Holy Monday --what the heck is that?' Suppose we said 'what the heck is erev sukkot'.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but no one I had spoken with that year (including my catholic friends) knew what it is. With all that wisdom, perhaps you could share it with the rest of us.

Posted by: atlmom | September 18, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

What I was saying was: it seemed like they made up some holidays so that they could give everyone time off during a holiday where we typically had time off near, but didn't that year. Please, correct me if I'm wrong, but keep the snarkiness out of it.

Posted by: atlmom | September 18, 2007 4:06 PM | Report abuse

And I don't see how I was offended....?

Posted by: atlmom | September 18, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Holy Monday is the Monday after Palm Sunday. The entire week between Palm Sunday and Easter is Holy Week, therefore Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday. Maunday Thursday commemorates the Last Supper. Good Friday is the day Christ was crucified. Shall I mention by whom? Saturday is a day of mourning. Easter Sunday is the day Christ arose from the dead. Ash Wednesday is nowhere near Easter -- it begins the 40 days of Lent or denial where you give up something and is usually in early February. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday and is called 'Pancake Day' in some countries to use up the eggs, milk and sugar for the 40 fasting days. Mardi Gras is a secular celebration held on Shrove Tuesday. Most churches have special services each day of Holy Week, which ends on Easter Sunday. I don't know why some school systems have the Monday after Easter as a holiday, but I don't run the schools.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

To the anonymous poster at 03:37 PM:

I know that there are teachers like the ones you described as living next door to you or perhaps the one your mother helps in her classroom--I worked with teachers like that when I taught junior high school English. They were not stellar teachers, to put it kindly. They put in their contract-required time, drew a paycheck, and had a life outside of those hours. The rest of us came in before we were required to be there, stayed long after 3:30 or 4:00 p.m., and still took home stacks of papers to grade in the evenings. I worked much harder when I was a teacher than I do now. Now I can leave my job at the end of the work day and go home--I don't take my job home with me.

I had five classes a day of 30 or more students in each class, with that number of papers to grade in the evenings. I'm sure that elementary school teachers could equal or pass me in the number of papers to mark, depending on what subjects had tests or essays that day. Planning periods did not exist for elementary teachers when I was in the profession, but I had one period a day to plan lessons or grade papers. It helped, but did not allow me to go home empty-handed very often.

Please do not assume that all teachers are like the ones you have described. They do exist, of course, but they are not the norm. The ones who really consider it important to do the job well spend much more time and effort on it than the girls next door. They also spend much of the "summer off" taking graduate courses or other approved classes in order to keep their certificates valid or to attain a higher degree so as to earn a better paycheck.

Posted by: Lynne | September 18, 2007 4:15 PM | Report abuse

BUT I was saying that we had the Monday AFTER Easter off. That's NOT holy Monday - we didn't have ALL of holy week off, just wed thru monday (or maybe thurs thru mon - it's been a long time since I was in high school).

Posted by: atlmom | September 18, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: x = unknown @ September 18, 2007 03:47 PM

"There is no use whatsoever in this life for algebra."

Perhaps algebra as it appeared in your textbook, that is true. However, as much as I personally hated algebra, I do use it all the time when it comes to excel spreadsheets and database programming, so I must respectfully disagree.

The "no use in life" arguement can be used to remove a lot of things from school. The study of cultural items (music, drama, literature), science, philosophy, as well as math as you have described it. Some of those are not required, but most are.

The important question is who decides what is necessary and what is not? Parents? Civil Servants? Students? That is a different debate that is waiting to happen.

Posted by: David S | September 18, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Posted by Anonymous @ September 18, 2007 04:14 PM

"Shall I mention by whom?"

That would be the Romans.


Posted by: David | September 18, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Christ was taken first to Pilate, a Roman, who sent him to King Herod. Herod ridiculed Christ and sent him back to Pilate. Crucifiction was Roman law. If Herod had put CHrist to death, he probably would have beheaded him, like he did John the Baptist.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2007 4:58 PM | Report abuse

That Monday after Easter is called Easter Monday and has sacred traditions in many Eastern European cultures. I believe it is also a state holiday in other European countries, so depending on the makeup of your school - that could be where it is coming from.

Posted by: to Atl mom | September 18, 2007 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Bus schedules - In CA, MD, MO, TX and CO - in the commmunities we lived in - the busses were not full - more like 1/3 to half full. In AK - where it's going to be a dark walk to and from school for a few months, all schools rode the same bus. Elementary, middle and high school kids were on the same bus. High schoolers were dropped off first and picked up last as they had more time in school.

Holidays - In Australia, school started in late January, went for a couple months then there were two weeks off for "school holidays". Started up again for another couple months and two more weeks off, started up again and two more weeks off the another couple months and then the school year ended in early December for summer holidays. Australia is another "Christian founded" country so most Christian holidays occur during school holidays and summer holidays. On days when students were off, many schools had "camps" for the kids to attend - or they were welcome at schools who did have these "camps" even if they weren't their own school.

Posted by: peripateticmom | September 18, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

BUT that was ONLY ONE YEAR in my entire school career where we had those days off. As mentioned above, we always had off on passover, which usually was around those days, but the one year that passover was not during easter, they gave us those days off.
i.e., we never heard of those days, so we thought they made them up since we'd never had them off before.

Posted by: atlmom | September 18, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse

BUT that was ONLY ONE YEAR in my entire school career where we had those days off. As mentioned above, we always had off on passover, which usually was around those days, but the one year that passover was not during easter, they gave us those days off.
i.e., we never heard of those days, so we thought they made them up since we'd never had them off before.

Posted by: atlmom | September 18, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse

I like how the racism/anti-Semitism comes under an anonymous posting. Fitting.

I don't even remember if I got most holidays off. I got pulled out for Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, but for Pesach and that I have no idea if I was out of school or if school vacation was extended for us.

Posted by: Kat | September 19, 2007 5:55 AM | Report abuse

"I know teachers and all of them say that it involves almost no overtime past 40 hours and even when it does, it's things like reading book reviews or doing library research to gather material for a curriculum. Four of the teachers next door moved to Italy for the July and August because they didn't need to be at school from July 1-August 15. Does ANYONE ELSE have such a job?"

As a teacher who has numerous teacher friends, I find this comment horribly uneducated. I agree with the poster who said that some teachers do just "collect a paycheck" and check out at 3pm, but that is true in any job market. My contract extends from 9 - 4, but when I leave at 6 or 7, the parking lot is still full with teachers supervising clubs (for no extra money) grading, tutoring, preparing their classroom and any other numerous activities. Also, I don't get that hour lunch break in the middle of my day either - I'm told during what 20 minutes I an eat (assuming I'm not holding a club meeting) and when I can use the restroom as well.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2007 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I got to take the High Holy Days off when I was a kid in private, Episcopalian school. It made them much more special, even if I had to make up work.

Now, as a teacher, knowing that everyone else is PLAYING on my holiday is infuriating. My son hasn't realized it yet, in 3rd grade, but when he does I'm sure it will become an issue.

It also keeps my religion a secret with my students, instead of allowing it to be obvious, and I'm not sure that's okay. I think that may be the real reason schools close in this area, so as not to "out" the Jewish teachers & students.

Posted by: dynagirl | September 19, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Erika,

I really agree with your post about high school classes starting so early. I have a 4th grader and a preschooler, so I haven't dealt with the high school scheduling personally yet, but I too have wondered why high school classes start so early, when like you said, teenagers generally don't function well early in the morning, and they're left with a lot of unsupervised time after school. The subject came up one day at work while I was eating lunch in the lunch room, and a coworker who is a volunteer high school football coach said high school classes start early so there will be sufficient daylight hours after school for sports. I don't follow sports at all, so I wonder if that's really the case? If it is, I don't agree with it. Why arrange an entire school's schedule simply to accomodate the students who are athletes? I know I'll probably get beat up on here when this comment is read, but it just doesn't seem right to me.

Posted by: Laura | September 19, 2007 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Catholics are Christians. Why does Stacey separate them? There are several Christian religions -- Catholic, Protestant, which includes Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Amish, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterians, Evangelists or Holy Rollers, Dunkards, etc. Then there are the groups who don't believe in anything at all called Unitarians and Wiccans. Good grief, didn't Flip Wilson start a religion called 'The Church of What's Happening Now' in a storefront somewhere? At various times in history Catholics and Protestants were at odds with each other. Mary Tudor slaughtered Protestants and earned the name Bloody Mary. Henry VIII started his own religion because the Pope didn't want to grant divorces. Episopalians 'out-Catholic the Catholics' by claiming to be Protestant yet have a Mass and celibate priests. Then we have Buddhists and Hindi. So -- whatever you worship is OK with me as long as it doesn't involve sacrifice of small animals or virgins. I also don't think one religion should crow about being superior to any other, like the little Jewish brats who parrot 'Jews are better, Jews are better, Jews are better,' or the Muslims who want to 'slaughter the infidel.' Just shut up about it and stop fighting. Religion is a very personal and private thing, like sex and income. If you want to be among the majority, move to a country where that religion is the majority -- like Palestine, Israel, Iraq, China, India. America was founded on Christian beliefs. Like it or leave it.

Posted by: Get over it...... | September 19, 2007 10:24 PM | Report abuse

You have to make allowance for the community. Where I used to live in PA, the Monday after Thanksgiving was a school holiday. Why? Because it's the first day of deer season. Many of the students, and a lot of the faculty, would not be their if they tried to hold school.

Posted by: Robert | September 24, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I live in Central America, when I was a kid, most of my classmates skipped school when the coffee recollection came. Teachers would come but the classrooms were half empty and we all understood that at that moment kids needed to collect the coffee harvest with their families, some how teachers managed to keep their school work.
The other thing is.... being a teacher is quite a unique job, when you work in an office you can say and do things without thinking how they will affect your coworkers feelings and minds, you don´t face very poor kids who came to school without breakfast, you don´t have to be a nurse, a counseler, a friend and a mother besides your actual job. If you were never a teacher you don´t know what it feels to have to protect kids from their own families, you don´t know the importance of a encouragment comment on a kids life, you don´t get the good things either... no one waits for you at the office door to help you with your books, no one gives you half a candy bar and no one blow kisses at you. It´s hard to describe, even if it were true, that teachers work less hours... they are pretty intense... you keep thinking how to help Simon feel more secure, some one might be bullying Karen, Laura did not come in two days, Vanessa´s parents are getting divorce, or someone´s pet died. Everything matters!!!! In my country we don´t get those days off, but God we would deserve them!

Posted by: central america | September 27, 2007 4:26 PM | Report abuse

I think it is pretty sad when this is a Country founded on freedom of religion, that people are saying disrespectful things about other religions.

To say love it or leave it is a total cop out and quite arrogant as well.

Just because it was "Christians" that founded this country doesn't mean other's with different beliefs should be treated like their beliefs are any less important than others.

I am a Christian, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The main one where Gordon B. Hinkley is the prophet. I have had other Christians tell me I am not a Christian. I find that sad, because I know what I believe and I have every right to believe as an American.

I don't believe in criticizing other's religious views or lack there of because that is their constitutional and I believe God given right to choose what is best for them.

Making comments about Jewish people being tired after Christmas is just not nice at all.

Just because you are using the internet is no excuse to be rude to someone that is different than you.

People should still use common courtesy.

I loathe any sort of prejudice and that includes religious prejudice.

I hope people will stop and think that is real people with real feelings on the other side of these monitors and treat all people as you would yourself like to be treated.

Sincerely,
Tracy

Posted by: Saddened in Mississippi | November 26, 2007 6:32 AM | Report abuse

In the US, in the state of Pennsylvania, what somewhat unusual day is given off school every year as a holiday today, the first Monday after Thanksgiving: the first day of... what

Deer season, is this really true.

Guess a good a day as any to be out of school

Posted by: Joyce | November 26, 2007 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Ok Im jumping in here and stating that I am a christian but hate the fact that the kids have way too many days off in the past mth and a half my kids have went to school for a total of 2 wks why because of the holidays and all the teacher workdays. I surley didnt get all these days off when I was their age. Also when you have to be at school by 730am and dont get out till 330pm thats crazy we went at 810 and was out by 3pm I also have a sister-in-law who is a elementary school teacher and she fusses about the time off as well. The kids cant learn with all these days off.

Posted by: michele | November 26, 2007 5:39 PM | Report abuse

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