JCRC Statement on Fairfax County School Board landmark vote for equitable calendar

JCRC Statement

Tonight the Fairfax County School Board for the first time adopted an academic calendar that includes closures on three days coinciding with widely observed minority-faith holidays, Yom Kippur, Eid-al-Fitr and Diwali, as well as a professional day on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.  It also includes scheduled professional days on Veteran’s Day and Orthodox Good Friday.  This brings Fairfax County into alignment with five neighboring schools districts across Northern Virginia that had already adopted more equitable, inclusive calendars.  

Guila Franklin Siegel, Associate Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington, said: 
“We are elated that the Fairfax County School Board has taken this landmark, long overdue step to advance equity for minority-faith students.  Tonight’s vote is a game-changer; it will have an immediate, dramatic impact on FCPS’ Jewish students and employees, as well as those of other minority faiths, who for the first time will feel that they have been truly seen and heard.  Importantly, it also remedies the system-wide confusion and hardships caused by the current “O” calendar, which both teachers and students found highly problematic, and gives Veteran’s Day the recognition it deserves.  And it accomplishes all of this without disadvantaging hourly workers or diminishing quality instruction,  recognizing the importance to staff of aligning FCPS’ calendar with those of neighboring jurisdictions.

We thank the FCPS senior administrators who created a calendar development process that was methodical and inclusive, as the Board directed them to do, and who understood the importance of this calendar in recognizing and honoring the rich diversity of the FCPS community.  

Most importantly, we thank the Fairfax County School Board members who tirelessly championed this issue over recent months, in the face of significant obstacles.  We especially wish to recognize current Board chair Stella Pekarsky, whose thoughtful, inclusive, open leadership brought us to this day.  To those Board members who struggled with the merit of adopting this calendar, we reiterate our commitment to dialoguing and collaborating with you to further equity for all FCPS stakeholders. 

The poignant timing of this vote on International Holocaust Remembrance Day reminds us that all hatred and bigotry has its roots in the “othering” of minority groups in our midst.  The calendar adopted tonight sends a powerful message that such marginalization and discrimination have no place in Fairfax County schools, and that people of all backgrounds and identities must be treated with respect, dignity, and empathy.  We are deeply grateful to all who joined us in advancing this cause.