Various hot-button issues were brought up at the November Board of Education meeting. Subjects discussed include school calendar, facilities renovations across the county, and student suspensions.
One major issue that came up related to school calendar, particularly, discussion occurred around Muslim Holidays. To designate a religious holiday as “no-school”, there would need to be data that suggest that the holiday interferes with the State mandated responsibilities, specifically, whether a significant number of students and staff would be absent during the day. Almost 40 years ago, it was determined that certain holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah, did interfere with MCPS’s ability to meet its mission as an institution of public education, as more than eight hundred teachers would be absent during the day. However, currently, no data suggests that this occurs for Muslim Holidays, although it may change in the future if there is a shift in demographics and a decrease in attendance on these specific holidays. The debate is not one of equity or precedent, what may be true today, may not be true five years from now as demographics shift and attendance numbers fluctuate.
The next issue related to county wide facility modernizations. The Board approved many elementary school facility renovation items. After discussion, Wootton High School was to receive a new turf field. The idea of school equity, such as the current situation with promethean boards, roused debate among board members. John Mannes, student member of board, said “we can’t make a game of who is next to get X, Y, or Z.” Furthermore, the Board reviewed current suspension policies. Recently, the State has pushed to reduce the number of suspension due to disobedience of authority figures in schools. The Board now needs to form a plan for a multiyear reduction of suspensions at the county level. Lastly, during the free discussion period, John Mannes announced his Think Tank school visits. More information of this can be found on the SMOB 365 facebook page.
Article by Aman Kaur, SAC press correspondent