ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The end of Ramadan is nearing, meaning the Muslim community is coming up on Eid-al-Fitr, the holiday that celebrates the conclusion of the fasting month.
For the first time ever, Brighton Central School District made it a point this year to give students the day off. However, on Thursday, the district announced they scheduled it for the wrong day.
Several from the community say it was an honest mistake that shouldn’t take away from the fact the district made an effort to be inclusive of their Muslim students.
Ajmal Agha is an Imam from the Islamic Center of Rochester and said the mistake is a part of a learning curve.
“There is always ignorance. There is always a learning curve. We’re all a work in progress. There is no perfection. I say we strive for perfection but we never get it perfect,” Agha said.
Ramadan runs based on the lunar calendar, therefore Eid is determined not by the standard calendar we used day-to-day, but by the moon.
“This sparked from the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), when he migrated from Mecca to Medina to Medina Munawra so that migration kick-started the lunar calendar. That is why we follow that. Just like our fellow counterparts, our brothers, the Jewish community, they also follow the same calendar so that’s why it’s not fixed so we don’t know exactly what day Eid will be exactly,” Agha said.
Habiba Byrd is a sophomore at Brighton High School and said she was excited to hear about getting the day off of school to be with her family.
“I asked my dad, what’s the day for Eid and my dad was like, ‘It’s either Sunday or Monday.’ And I was like, ‘But we get school off on Tuesday.’ And I was like, ‘Wait, what?’”
In a letter to parents, Brighton Superintendent Kevin McGowan wrote, “It is essential that I personally and we collectively continue to reflect, learn, and grow as we seek to be ever more inclusive and culturally responsive… We should all be aware, with or without the day off, that it is an important holiday for many of our friends and neighbors and we should be thoughtful in recognizing how it can be celebrated by our students and their families.”
Byrd said regardless of the mix-up, going to a school that prioritizes their students and their beliefs is “really cool.”
“It brings some diversity and it shows that the school cares about us and it’s never been like that and I never thought it was ever going to be like that,” Byrd said.
The district is encouraging students who celebrate Eid to stay home on the actual day which is Monday, May 2. The whole school will also have Tuesday, May 3 off as originally scheduled. They said no test, quizzes, or other important activities will be scheduled for either day.
Brighton Central School District’s full letter to parents:
Last year, we endeavored to create a calendar for the 2021-22 school year that expanded on our intentions to develop a more inclusive and responsive environment. For the first time, we included a day off for Eid al-Fitr (“the feast of breaking the fast”) that marks the end of Ramadan. When we set the date for May 3, it was my understanding from predictions at the time that this would be the appropriate day to take off. What I have learned since then is that the actual holiday is not determined until a later time and can be on any of several different days depending on a variety of factors. What I know now is that Eid is being celebrated this year in our area on May 2.
This situation brings to light several important take-aways. First, it is essential that I personally and we collectively continue to reflect, learn, and grow as we seek to be ever more inclusive and culturally responsive. Second, changing the school calendar unexpectedly causes significant challenges for many families in our school community. However, we should all be aware, with or without the day off, that it is an important holiday for many of our friends and neighbors and we should be thoughtful in recognizing how it can be celebrated by our students and their families. To that end, please note that we are encouraging families who celebrate Eid al-Fitr to keep their children home on Monday, May 2. We will still have off in recognition of the holiday on Tuesday, May 3 as planned, but will make sure that there will not be tests, quizzes or other high stakes activities that students will miss if celebrating at home on Monday, May 2. Third, we will need to consider how to plan more flexibly in the future for this holiday and learn more about when it will be the right time to more specifically determine the correct day off.
If you would like to know more about Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr or the traditions of our Muslim friends and neighbors, please see the resources below. Thank you to everyone for their understanding and Eid Mubarak (Happy Eid) in advance for those who celebrate.
Kevin McGowan, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools