Schools in heavily Jewish county of Maryland to stay closed on High Holidays


(JTA) — Schools will remain closed on the High Holidays in Baltimore County, the home to several large Jewish communities, for the 2018-19 school year following an extended debate.

The Baltimore County school board on Tuesday night voted 9-3 to approve the academic calendar for the next term with the district closing on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as it has for the past two decades.

The debate centered on keeping the schools open for the High Holidays or having an extended break in the spring around Easter.

The calendar had to be reworked following an order by Gov. Larry Hogan that Maryland public schools must begin after Labor Day and end by June 15. The requirement is aimed at extending the summer and boosting state tourism, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The Baltimore Jewish Council and the Baltimore County PTA board of directors opposed opening schools on the Jewish holidays, according to the newspaper.

A school board member estimated that it would cost the school system up to $500,000 to pay for the substitute teachers needed to fill in for Jewish teachers who take off on the Jewish holidays.

“It’s not a religious issue. It’s a question of economics,” school board member David Uhlfelder said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Baltimore County has significant Jewish communities in Owings Mill, Pikesville, Randallstown and Reisterstown. The City of Baltimore is not in the county and keeps its schools open for the High Holidays.

The calendar also was amended at the meeting to switch one professional development day to June 5, which is the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr. Muslim families in the district have been lobbying to have school closed on their holidays as well.

Other school districts in Maryland have approved calendars for next year that either keep the schools open on one or both of the Jewish holidays, or remain closed on the holidays.

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