Wake County school board may drop teacher workday on Yom Kippur

Posted by T. Keung Hui on May 7, 2014 

Should the Wake County school system eliminate a proposed teacher workday in 2015 that coincides with Yom Kippur because it’s on a Wednesday?

As noted in today’s article, the Wake County school board pulled from Tuesday’s a meeting a vote on 2015-16 school calendars to allow staff to revise a weather statement on how makeup days would be used. But what also caught the attention of board members on Tuesday is the teacher workday proposed for Sept. 23, 2015 for traditional-calendar schools.

"It's an outlier from where we've got every other workday,” school board member Bill Fletcher said. “Every other workday is connected to a weekend — either a Friday or a holiday, or a Monday. And it's conspicuous in its location there. It would seem that moving that to be contiguous with a weekend would be consistent with the rest of the calendar."

It was quickly determined to be the same day as Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. It was recommended by the district’s calendar committee, a group consisting of teachers, administrators, parents and community members

Students get the day off on a teacher workday. Unless it’s a mandatory workday, teachers can also request to take the day off.

Over the years, the school district has tried to schedule a teacher workday that matches up with either Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year. For instance, this school year there was a teacher workday on Sept. 6, a Friday, that coincided with Rosh Hashanah.

For the 2014-15 school year, a workday is scheduled for Sept. 25, a Thursday. Thatday also coincides with Rosh Hashanah.

But Wake also angered members of the Jewish community in 2003 when it turned Yom Kippur from a teacher workday to a weather makeup day when school was closed because of Hurricane Isabel.

Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance, told board members that they can look at potentially moving the workday. She said it’s “not a hard line” that they hold workdays to coincide with Jewish holidays.

“It's something that we can certainly take a look at and look at other options because that's not a logical place for a workday,” Moore said of using a Wednesday.

After the board meeting, Fletcher said his questioning of the workday had nothing to do with it being Yom Kippur. He said he was asking because a Wednesday workday would be inconvenient for families.

If the workday is changed, school board policy allows students to get an excused absence for religious reasons. Jewish school employees who want the day off would have to work it out with their principal or supervisor.

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