Baltimore Co. Decides To Keep Schools Closed On Jewish Holidays

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A heated discussion whether or not to keep Baltimore County schools closed during two Jewish holidays comes to an end.

On Tuesday night, Baltimore County Public School leaders were split on the vote, but ultimately decided to keep school closed during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Though that decision did come with a few amendments.

A calendar conundrum affecting Baltimore County Public School, that for now at least, has been resolved.

Top school officials voted to keep a 20 year tradition alive throughout the district, by keeping school closed for two Jewish high holidays next school year.

“Calendar B as amended passes.”

The 9-3 decision did not come without controversy.

All stemming from an order from the governor to cram 180 days of learning between new start and end days that forced school districts around that state to adjust their calendars.

Baltimore County Public Schools had two options on the table: Open or closed on two Jewish holidays. Ultimately, closed won, but with an unexpected twist.

”The board recognized the operational needs for keeping the Baltimore County Public Schools Closed for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,” said Howard Libit, with the Baltimore Jewish Council. “I was pleased to see that the board unexpectedly found a way to respect one of the Muslim holidays too.”

The board accomplished this feat by moving a professional development day and cutting down on a snow day.

One board member argued that closing the schools could prove detrimental to low-income students who depend on meals they’re served at school.

Another board member stressed that at the end of day, the decision to keep schools closed is entirely an economic one, by not having to payout substitute teachers.

“It’s a question of whether you want to spend $3,000-$5,000, then keep the schools open, or if you want to conserve the $3,000-$5,000 and interrupt the education process, then you keep the school closed,” said BCPS board member David Uhlfelder.

A spokesperson for the governor’s office called the whole thing “outrageous” and said other school districts managed to figure it out.

“The Baltimore County school board’s decision to cut spring break while closing schools for a teachers union convention on the beaches of Ocean City is absurd. Numerous other jurisdictions managed to adopt a common sense calendar that preserves traditional days off while starting after Labor Day – something the vast majority of Marylanders support. Baltimore County could easily have done the same.”

Board members counter that with the shortest schools days in the state, this issue was not as easy to solve.

One member of the Muslim community was at the meeting Tuesday, and was pleased with the outcome as well, but says there is still a long way to go too.

Board members and members of the community agreed this likely won’t be the last time the calendar comes up.

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