The 2020-2021 school year sets professional development days for staff but no school for students on May 13, in observance of Eid al-Fitr and Feb. 12, 2021 for Lunar New Year.
The largest school system in Maryland will not hold classes on Eid al-Fitr next school year, marking a victory for parents and students who wish to observe the Muslim holiday.
The Montgomery County Board of Education on Tuesday adopted a calendar for the 2020-2021 school year that sets professional development days for staff but no school for students on May 13 for Eid al-Fitr and Feb. 12, 2021 for Lunar New Year, which is celebrated by many Asian families.
In recent years, the school board in Montgomery County has not scheduled classes on Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, two major Islamic holidays. The school system closes for two Jewish holidays and several days around Christmas and Easter.
But because the College Board scheduled its Advanced Placement exams on Eid al-Fitr in 2021, school officials initially considered keeping schools open.
The College Board decided in early November to provide a second testing date for the exams scheduled on Eid al-Fitr after the Montgomery County school board and Superintendent Jack R. Smith sent a letter urging the company to reconsider administering tests on Eid al-Fitr.
"Muslim students would experience an unintended consequence by observing their religious holiday on a day designated for AP exam administration," the letter said.
Derek Turner, a spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools, said in a statement that the school system considered what keeping schools open on Eid al-Fitr and Lunar New Year would mean for the education of its increasingly diverse student population.
"We always want our students to feel safe, welcome and respected in our school district," he said.
The decision not to hold classes on the holiday spared Muslim families in Montgomery County from having to decide between attending school or observing the religious holiday, said Zainab Chaudry, who directs outreach in Maryland for advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"It's a time for prayer and gratitude and reflection and spending time with family and celebrating with one another," she said. "It's a time of joy and community."
The school calendar adopted this week also sets the first day of school before Labor Day. School has started after Labor Day in recent years, but that start date — set by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) was overturned by state lawmakers this year.