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Muslim Holidays Added to New York City Schools' Calendar

New York City Schools will close for the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, becoming the largest school district in the country to add those days as official holidays in the school calendar, the city said on Wednesday.

As the Muslim population has grown in many school districts, Muslim parents and community members have asked those communities to add Muslim holidays to the school calendar. A furor erupted in Maryland's Montgomery County school district last year where Muslim residents were asking for the addition of Eid al-Adha to the district's calendar. In response, the school board voted to strip all religious references from the school calendar—meaning that the 2015-16 calendar in Montgomery County will have no reference  to Christmas or Yom Kippur, though school will still be closed on those days.

Advocates in New York had lobbied to add the days to the calendar for years, through the tenures of several schools chiefs.

The changes will take effect in the 2015-16 year, the New York City Education Department said Wednesday. Schools will close on Sept. 24 for Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, commemorating Ibrahim's (or Abraham's) willingness to sacrifice his son, and for Eid-al-Fitr, which falls in July and marks the end of Ramadan. Eid-al-Fitr will be a holiday for those attending summer school.

The department of education said the change in the calendar was a reflection of the diversity of the 1.1 million-student district.

"We made a pledge to families that we would change our school calendar to reflect the strength and diversity of our city," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "Hundreds of thousands of Muslim families will no longer have to choose between honoring the most sacred days on their calendar or attending school. This is a common sense change, and one that recognizes our growing Muslim community and honors its contributions to our city."

The announcement was made at PS/IS 30 in Brooklyn, N.Y., where 36 percent of students missed school when Eid al-Adha fell on a school day, the city said.  Schools in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Jersey already close public schools in observance of Muslim holidays.

"We are committed to having a school calendar that reflects and honors the extraordinary diversity of our students," New York City Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a press release announcing the changes. "Muslim students and their families who observe Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha shouldn't have to choose between an instructional day and their religious obligations. This new addition will also enable a teachable moment in the classroom for our students to learn about religious tolerance and the societal contributions of various cultures."

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