The School Committee revised its Religious and Ethnic Holiday Accommodations Policy at its September 11 meeting. This revision came about as a result of difficulties the district has had implementing the previous policy. The new policy was developed by a team that included district staff, teachers and parents. The School Committee offered several suggestions at its last meeting which resulted in two documents: one containing the policy and the other the implementation plans.
The new policy provides a list of recognized religious and ethnic holidays that the district recognizes. Identified holidays are Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the first day of Passover, and Good Friday. The policy then directs that there will be no tests or assignments due on any of these days or the day after these days for all students in the district. Also there will be no field trips, performances, auditions, or back-to-school events scheduled on the designated days. Other non-designated religious or ethnic holidays may be accommodated on a case-by-case basis. Absences for students missing school for religious observances will be excused.
This broad policy was developed to relieve students of the need to reveal religious affiliations to teachers or classmates, and to help teachers by reducing the need to negotiate make-up assignments with multiple students. Committee member Nicholas Boivin pointed out that the policy, “Goes farther than the law requires to cover extra-curricular events as well.” Administration will explain the policy to faculty so they will be prepared on how to plan going forward.
Each committee member also provided the superintendent written guiding principles for use when developing the Fiscal Year 2019 budget. These principles provide the priorities that each committee member wants Superintendent John Doherty to consider as he builds the budget in what is expected to be a challenging budget year. Some of the principles included the importance of maintaining positions that have direct student contact, elementary assessment, maintenance of the middle school model, and continuance of the progress made in social-emotional learning. The entire document can be viewed in the school committee packet found at www.reading.k12.ma.us/files/3315/0513/6464/SC_MEETING_9.11.17.pdf
The committee adjourned to executive session at 8:50 p.m.