New holidays reflect diversity in Edison School District

EDISON — Richard O’Malley, the superintendent of schools in the Edison School District, has said diversity in Edison is the community’s greatest strength.

And with the recent approval of the 2018-19 school calendar at a Board of Education meeting on May 21, board President Jerry Shi said the calendar will reflect the diversity of the town.

“Going back 20 years, some of the holidays we observe today, Diwali, Eid and the Lunar New Year, did not exist (on our school calendar),” Shi said. “The Edison School District is a leader in a lot of areas and we will continue to be a leader when it comes to diversity.”

Shi said some people may not understand why Diwali, Eid and the Lunar New Year are being added to the school calendar.

“I would like to encourage parents to spend time with their children on these holidays, embrace the diversity we have in our town and learn the culture, [in which] 20 years ago we were not really familiar with,” he said. “Now, all these different cultures are part of society, are part of the country, the United States of America.”

Diwali, which is India’s largest holiday, is Nov. 7; Lunar New Year, which is celebrated by Asian cultures, is Feb. 5, 2019; and Eid, which is a religious holiday observed by Muslims, is June 5, 2019.

Carol Bodofsky, a retired teacher in Edison, said the addition of observing the holidays in the school calendar is an important step to recognize all diversity; however, she said as a caution, there are many cultures and holidays represented by students in the district.

“It may not be possible to take days off to represent all the groups,” she said, noting there are only 180 school days. “One of the things you can do along the way is prioritize what percentage of the [student] population represents [the different religions] and that might help you. However, the only way to recognize [all religions] is to not close schools and make accommodations for students to practice their religious beliefs.”

Bodofsky said it is important to educate students about the different cultures and religions of the world so they understand, which makes a better place for everyone.