Responding to the needs of diverse communities in the district, the School Board recently approved calendar changes for the 2017-2018 school year. In an official statement, the Board explains these changes, revealing that “upon reflection of community input, [the Board] has decided to honor the traditions of the Chinese New Year (February 16) and Diwali (October 19).”
These dates will be holidays for students, but will count as in-service days for teachers. One of the early proponents of this change was Mrs. Preeti Jain, a member of the high school’s Wellness Committee and a parent in the district.
In a conversation with the superintendent, Dr. John Sanville, she suggested Diwali be celebrated as a holiday. This suggestion was in response to the larger presence of the Indian minority in the district today. “It has grown quite a lot,” she said, “from when I moved here 13 years ago.” Census data reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer supports her claim, revealing that the Asian population in the school district has more than doubled from 2000 to 2010, and now makes up about 10% of the student body.
After meeting with the superintendent, Mrs. Jain reached out to about 60 families in the district and advised them to give feedback.
The proposed measure resonated well with the Asian-American community, which expressed a strong desire to push the changes through. Instrumental to their success, according to Mrs. Jain, was “feedback from the community” which put pressure on the district to strongly consider implementing the holidays.
The School District is leading the way in this movement to welcome holidays besides the Judeo-Christian celebrations. The district is the first in all of Pennsylvania to mark either Diwali or Chinese New Year as official school holidays for the upcoming school year.
Additionally, the holidays have been embraced throughout the region in states such as New Jersey and Maryland. The district’s success in pushing this measure through may lead to similar responses in districts where minority communities, especially those of Asian-Americans, are growing rapidly.