Milford school board reverses decision and makes Rosh Hashanah a day off from school

Milford students will NOT go to school on Rosh Hashanah.

The Milford Board of Education voted Monday night to reverse a decision it made last month to amend the school calendar and send students to school on several holidays, including Rosh Hashanah.

Despite lengthy debate last month about whether Rosh Hashanah should be a school day or a holiday, the Milford Board of Education voted in April to make the Jewish holiday a day of school for students.

The decision was part of a move to change next year's school calendar in case severe winter weather and tropical storms continue to cancel school days as they did this year, forcing school administrators to cut both February and April vacations at pretty much the last minute.

“Our goal was to capture five days from the calendar for 2013-14 to prevent what happened this year,” said school Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Feser at an earlier board meeting. “This would create some breathing room.”

Feser emphasized that she did not intend to pit one religion against another in proposing that Rosh Hashanah be a day of school. The board also voted to make Columbus Day and Veterans Day school days for students.

“This was in no way a statement on the Jewish faith,” Feser said.

One local parent spoke at the school board meeting last month and urged the administration to honor the Jewish religion and to observe Rosh Hashanah as a holiday.

Rabbi Schneur Wilhelm attended, too, and said there had been some talk about the calendar at his synagogue.

A month after that vote, the board changed its mind. School spokesman Kathy Bonetti said the board members felt they needed to revisit the matter to be sensitive to people of the Jewish faith. She reiterated that the superintendent also wanted it to be clear that it was never her intention to minimize the importance of the religious holiday.

To compensate for restoring Rosh Hashanah as a holiday off form school, the board added one day to the end of the calendar. School is now scheduled to end June 6 of 2014.

School will start the Wednesday before Labor Day, and Columbus Day and Veterans Day will be school days rather than holidays as in past years.

February vacation is eliminated, but students will have off from school the Friday before February break typically occurs and then the following Monday, which is Presidents Day, giving them two four-day weeks in a row.

Administrators also looked at having a March vacation instead of an April vacation, but since most Connecticut school districts have a week off in April, they decided to stick with an April break.