Pol to mayor: Let kids lift off on Lunar New Year

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The city should hurry up and give schoolkids Lunar New Year off now that it has declared two Muslim holidays stay-home days, according to a Dumbo pol.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who also represents Manhattan’s Chinatown, pushed through state legislation last year aimed at making the holiday widely celebrated in Asian cultures an official school holiday. Mayor DeBlasio and the education department’s announcement last week that Islamic holy days Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr are being made official days off irked Squadron, who pointed out that DeBlasio promised to move on Lunar New Year.

“The evolution of the school calendar is a testament to the diversity of the city,” Squadron said. “The mayor made a pledge and it should be kept.”

Lunar New Year is the biggest day of the year for many Asian societies. Nearly 90 percent of students in some areas of the city, including Sunset Park, are absent from school when Lunar New Year falls on a weekday, Squadron said. With Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D–Red Hook) and now-indicted Assemblyman Sheldon Silver (D–Manhattan), Squadron introduced a law requiring city education departments examine whether to make holidays with high rates of absences official school holidays. It passed last year.

One Chinese mom who observes the holiday says the city is disrespecting her people by keeping it a normal school day.

“I have to make a hard decision every year about whether to keep the kids home to celebrate the holiday,” said Melody Mei, who lives in Bensonhurst and has children in fifth and second grades. “They dress up in the dragon costumes and they are very proud of this. The school should show that they value my children’s culture.”

DeBlasio justified reneging on his promise to list Lunar New Year for the upcoming school year by saying that there is less wiggle room than he thought in the school calendar.

“What we have found in this process is that we are in a very tight situation, as I said, with the number of days that we have to achieve each year,” said Deblasio. “We remain focused on it, but it will take more work, because we have to balance a lot of factors.”

Squadron countered that it is not all that hard to find extra school days.

“There are any number of other days on the school on the calendar,” said Squadron. “Every time you change the calendar, it needs to be done thoughtfully and careful. The mayor made a pledge to do it.”

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Quote from Melody Mei added.
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Reasonable discourse

Michael says:
Reasons not to add more holidays to the school calendar - the number of different holidays celebrated by families of students is so enormous. Perhaps stundents will go to school only a few days a year!
If you start adding more holidays, you either have to add dozens more or chose certain groups over others. It seems that Warren De Blasio will most likely only chose certain groups to give holidays to, based on the number of votes he hopes to get from them. Or maybe he doesn't believe that kids have to be in school to get an education? In any case, it seems poorly thought through. Just an attempt to get some attention.
It would also be nice if he could finish one school initiative successfully (universal pre-kindergarten) before jumping on another pandora's box.
March 12, 2015, 3:33 am
Ed from Bay Ridge says:
If you allow some folks' major religioethnic holidays you have to allow others, or at least those others who achieve a public voice, numbers and clout like those who preceded them.
March 12, 2015, 10:48 am
Michael says:
The religious holidays observed by the school system were historically based on the teachers. The idea being that the school system could not cover enough substitutes to make up for the absences of the teachers. It had nothing to do with the students.
If the teachers were taking off in large numbers, I'd say go for it. If it's because certain groups make a loud fuss and want their kids to take off - the system can either give everyone every day off, or at least have a clear standard for how days are selected. Perhaps saying a certain percentage of the city or of the school age population has to be of some religion. Now it just seems like random oiling of squeaky wheels. Or even just simply random, baseless adding of religious controls to a public institution.
I'd be all for abolishing all religious holidays in public schools to be perfectly honest.
March 13, 2015, 4:13 am
ty from pps says:
don't forget the Frisbterians - they believe that when you die your soul goes up on the roof and won't come down.
March 14, 2015, 12:08 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Maybe there should be no day offs from school on any religious holiday so that way no religious group will feel left out.
March 14, 2015, 2:33 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Tal, go tell the UFT that they have to work Christmas!

March 14, 2015, 3:26 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Rufus, my point is that there is only a number of school days there can be in a year, and having more day offs for a certain religion can be a slippery slope, plus one can always travel to those countries if they want holidays for those religions.
March 16, 2015, 2:11 pm

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