Virginia Beach will suspend school calendar that starts on Rosh Hashanah following Jewish complaints


(JTA) — The Virginia Beach School Board will suspend the district’s 2021-22 calendar after the Jewish community complained that the first day of classes coincides with the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

The board voted to approve the calendar late last month, though one board member pointed out that the first day of school would fall on the Jewish New Year, WAVY10 reported.

The calendar extends the 2022 spring break to include Easter Monday.

Superintendent Aaron Spence explained the board’s original call in a letter dated Jan. 30 addressed to theVirginia Beach City Public School Jewish Community Families” and published in Virginia’s Jewish News. Spence said the board had decided not to start school before Labor Day and could not start any later while fulfilling the state requirement of instructional time.

“I understand that choosing between religious observance and attending the first day of school is not an easy one,” he wrote. “I would therefore like to remind the community that religious holidays are excused absences for Virginia Beach City Public Schools.”

This did not sit well with parents.

“How does nobody see that was wrong?” parent Mindi Golden Friedman told WAVY. “You start the kids off at a disadvantage if they miss their first day of school. Everyone who is choosing to spend the day with their families in synagogue praying versus being in the class.”

The board’s chairwoman, Carolyn Rye, said she will make a motion at the Feb. 25 meeting to suspend the finalized calendar and call for the calendar work group to reconvene.

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