JCRC Says New FCPS “O” Calendar Does Not Remedy Accommodation Failures

JCRC Statement

Results of High Holiday survey highlight consequences of refusal to adopt equitable, inclusive calendar

WASHINGTON DC- October 26, 2021 - The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) yesterday wrote to the Fairfax County School Board to share the results of its informal survey of Jewish parents, teachers, and students who sought accommodations to observe the High Holidays last month.  

Responses indicated that FCPS’ new “O” calendar, which designates 14 days when no exams or significant instruction or events may take place, did little if anything to alleviate the perennial struggles experienced by Jewish students and employees in observing their most sacred religious holidays.  The Board adopted the current calendar in March, rejecting a more inclusive 2021-2022 calendar that would have included closures on first day of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Eid, and Diwali. 

“Rather than adopt an equitable, inclusive calendar that would alleviate administrative, academic, and emotional burdens on Jewish students, families and teachers, and therefore on the school district overall, the School Board created a system that clearly caused even greater stress for Jews, burdening them with the responsibility to enforce compliance and defend their own rights, regardless of the personal cost,” said Guila Franklin Siegel, JCRC Associate Director.

The agency received nearly 100 responses from Jewish stakeholders across the school district and also spoke with a range of Jewish administrators and teachers.  Nearly all reported numerous failures to comply with new FCPS policies regarding implementation of the “O” calendar, including:

·    back-to-school nights, tests, quizzes and final reviews improperly scheduled on “O” days
·    new material improperly introduced on designated days 
·    Jewish students being singled out by teachers
·    Jewish faculty encountering difficulty in securing substitutes, and 
·    staff meetings improperly scheduled on “O” days. 
Teachers and administrators also expressed concern about inability to complete the required curriculum due to the multitude of restricted days in the calendar.
“We believe that FCPS can and must do better.  We, along with our minority-faith coalition partners, will continue advocating until FCPS joins neighboring counties in adopting an academic calendar that treats our students, families, and employees with true respect and dignity,” said Ms. Franklin Siegel. 

The full text of JCRC’s letter can be found HERE.