TOWSON, Md. (WJZ)– Baltimore County Public Schools are considering whether to remove two Jewish holidays from the school calendar.
The consideration is stirring up strong opinions from the Jewish community and others who say the calendar should be inclusive for everyone.
For the last 20 years, Baltimore County Public Schools have closed their doors to observe the Jewish High Holidays, but that may change if the school board votes to remove the first day of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur from the Calendar. Both fall on weekdays in 2018.
“There’s a substantial Jewish population of teachers, principals, staff and students. The impact on so many schools would be great,” said Howard Libit of the Jewish Council.
During a Tuesday night hearing, board members got an earful from parents and community leaders.
Schools are feeling the squeeze of trying to meet the 180-day requirement, now that the school year starts after Labor Day.
“It is your duty to find the solution. It is not up to us to find the solution,” PTA council president Jayne Lee said.
The Jewish Council estimates as many as 1500 teachers in BCPS schools are Jewish. Teachers may choose to stay home to attend synagogue, even if schools are open.
If that happens students may outnumber staff.
“It’s a safety concern. That’s what it falls down to. Imagine when you knock off two days that we’re used to having employees come in. We’re not going to have enough substitutes,” one woman with the PTA said.
Some say the board should consider other calendar changes to accommodate other religions.
“We want to be inclusive. We’re not really looking to deprive are Jewish brothers and sisters of their holidays,” said Baltimore County resident Bash Pharoan.
One parent said that maybe extending half days could be a solution everyone can live with. That option is currently not on the table.
Opponents said it will cost the county thousands of dollars to hire substitute teachers during these holidays.
The vote will be on October 24.