Baltimore County Schools will be closed next year on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Baltimore County School Board last night on a split vote rejected a proposal to keep schools open on the Jewish High Holy Days.
The board also decided to close schools to students on June 5, 2019, for the Muslim holy day of Eid-al-Fitr. They’re doing that by moving a teacher work day from the start of the school year to June 5. Board member Kathleen Causey said the three largest religious groups in Baltimore County need to be acknowledged.
“We need to in an equitable fashion recognize those large numbers of students, and/or teachers that would be absent and disrupt the program of education,” Causey said.
Several school systems in the state, including Baltimore County, have been wrestling with their calendars because of Governor Larry Hogan’s executive order that mandates schools open after Labor Day and close by June 15. They say it has put the squeeze on them to get the required hours of instruction in.
Governor Hogan has dismissed this, saying opening schools after Labor used to be the tradition in Maryland and that an overwhelming majority of Marylanders support it.
Board member David Uhlfelder said closing school on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is both a financial and academic issue. Uhlfelder said it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire substitutes to replace the Jewish teachers who would take off if schools were open. And Uhlfelder added there is no guarantee you can find enough substitutes.
Uhlfelder said, “Certainly one would agree this is an interruption to education.”
Board member Stephen Verch argued for closing the schools on the Jewish holy days, in part because if the schools are closed, children who receive reduced or free meals will not be able to get them.
“If the school’s not open, they don’t get anything to eat that day,” Verch said.