CBSN MinnesotaWatch

Religious Holidays Posing Quagmire For Eden Prairie School Calendar

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Eden Prairie school district is facing some heat over its school calendar for next year.

The first day of school this fall was pushed back one day from the Tuesday after Labor Day to Wednesday. A district spokesperson says this decision was made because the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah was the same day.

A petition urging the district not to schedule the first day of school on Rosh Hashanah had more than 700 signatures.

Rosh Hashanah always falls during the school year, but has not been recognized in the past with a day off for students.

At least part of the reason the exception was made for the upcoming year is that it’s the first day coming off the difficult 2020-21 year. The holiday falling on the scheduled first day of school is also something that only happens every 10 to 12 years.

The decision troubled Devdatta Halbe and his wife, Mugdha, who have a daughter in the district and another daughter who already graduated. It wasn’t because the district was recognizing Rosh Hashanah; they just felt the holiday they celebrate should be recognized the same way.

“When is Diwali going to get recognized?” Devdatta said.

Mugdha says she was disappointed.

“I want my kids to know about my culture also and stay home,” Mugdha said. “School should be closed.”

(credit: CBS)

The Eden Prairie School Board addressed the calendar at a January meeting. During the public comment section, Debra Zwiefelhofer spoke up about the Rosh Hashanah scheduling conflict.

“When my daughter and some of her friends learned that the first day of high school they might have to miss it for religious reasons, it was really kind of devastating,” Zwiefelhofer said.

A board member said during the discussion that there should be more transparency with calendar decisions like this.

The Halbes see two fair ways to proceed, each with pros and cons. They feel the school could give no days off for religious holidays, or give students a day off for their Hindu holiday, Diwali, the Festival of Lights. They recognize the latter could be a slippery slope.

“You cannot really stop at one religion only,” Devdatta said. “Now you got to recognize other religions which are there.”

A spokesperson for the district says a task force of Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Christian parents and community members are looking at the calendar to consider how to recognize major holidays for people of all faiths.

They will make a recommendation to the superintendent on a process that allows families to celebrate their traditions within the school year.

School board president Adam Seidel wrote in an email to Mugdha that the 2022-23 calendar will be reviewed next month.