FCPS updates school calendar

15 holidays added to recognize religious and cultural observances


AROUND THE GLOBE – Fairfax County has made a commitment to honor students who celebrate different cultural holidays. The decision to develop a new calendar for the 2021-22 school year is a great step towards representation for all.

The Fairfax County School Board implemented a new calendar for the 2021-22 school year during a work session on March 18 that recognizes multiple religious and cultural holidays. These changes were made in response to a March 2nd motion to take into account a variety of factors including student wellness, attendance and inclusivity.

“This approach taken in the development of this calendar is one of equity and inclusivity,” said School Board Chair Ricardy Anderson. “It aims to center equity by elevating our systems’ respect for religious and cultural observances.”

The most noticeable change is the addition of 15 different religious and cultural observances in Fairfax County: Eid al-Adha, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Día de los Muertos, Diwali, Bodhi Day, Three Kings Day/Epiphany, Orthodox Christmas, Orthodox Epiphany, Lunar New Year, Ramadan, Good Friday, Theravada, Orthodox Good Friday/Last Night of Passover and Eid al-Fitr. 

“I like that Eid is [recognized as] a holiday because it means more representation,” junior Vaneeza Pasha said. “It sometimes feels exclusive that some holidays get a day off and others don’t, so the fact that we’re adding more representation is really nice.”

Accommodating students who celebrate these holidays is a break from convention for a county that celebrates the more dominant holidays, such as Christmas. The steps taken in boosting diversity and raising awareness of other cultures, however, have been greatly appreciated.

“This helps me because I feel more represented,” Pasha said. “I feel like my holiday is being thought of. I can’t speak for others, but I’m sure there are many other Muslims who feel the same way.”

On the mentioned 15 days, quizzes, field trips, graduation, homecoming or FCPS-scheduled athletic events are not permitted to be scheduled. Assessments are expected to take place prior to the holidays to ensure that students will not be expected to study during a day of observance.

“It really emphasizes the value and importance of other cultures and religions,” junior Nicole Chan said. “I think it’s only fair that students should be excused from schoolwork on all types of holidays and not just on Christian holidays, such as Christmas.” 

Additionally, Thanksgiving break remains three days long, winter break remains two weeks long, and spring break remains one week long, though the latter is to be decoupled from any religious or cultural observances.

Despite the inclusion of several new holidays, the calendar is made to prevent any interference with instruction. The lengths of the quarters and semesters remain the same, and teacher workdays are still provided to support curriculum planning and professional development time.

School employees also benefit from the observed holidays because the new calendar reduces any burdens their career might have, especially for those who are not paid on holidays. According to the calendar, the first day of school is Monday, August 23, 2021, and the last day of school is Friday, June 10, 2022, which gives 10- or 11-month staff members the opportunity to pursue summer jobs earlier. 

While this 2021-22 calendar is only an interim calendar, it is a huge step towards further representation for the entire student body in Fairfax County. As the school board continues to refine the process of developing inclusive calendars, FCPS is entering a new era of equality and racial diversity.

“I think that having these extra holidays allows students to properly celebrate,” junior Phoebe Li said. “This also sends the message to the community that emphasizes cultural tolerance and spreads warmth throughout the process.”