Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

          As a Muslim student, Manal Khalid, 12, used to feel stressed about missing school on Eid, the Islamic equivalent to Christmas. Schools calendars did not count Eid as an official holiday. This was an issue among various cultural and ethnic groups of students/staff who were eager to be heard.

          “It would really help take stress off Muslim students during such an important holiday,” remarked Khalid.

          Most students at Westfield have certain holidays that they celebrate; for some students,  however, cultural holidays were not a part of the regular school year calendar till this year. Needless to say, for a diverse county like FCPS, many members of the community thought this needed to change. 

          As of the 2021-2022 school year, FCPS has implemented 15 Cultural Observation days onto their calendar, designed to respect and inform on various observances. This, however, has sparked some backlash since this new calendar came with new rules. These included a “no graded work” requirement during these observances.

          “Personally, the new observances don’t affect my teaching; graded work can be compromised as needed,” remarked Cory Fox, English teacher.

          Restrictions for classroom instruction  during the observances include a bar on tests and  quizzes,  no new material, and no group review. Teachers are also not allowed  guage student participation in the holidays by taking polls from students regarding their religious affiliations.  Teachers are also asked to offer meaningful lessons on such days.

          According to the FCPS website, the development of these observances were for “equity and inclusivity.” Many students,  including Alexa Nigriny, 10, affirm this goal. “I’ve not been completely aware of my peers’ backgrounds and traditions; these observances really helped,” stated Nigriny.

          Active participants of these observation days also voiced their opinions: “It’s a personal choice to use these days to inform yourself, but I do think this helps my own Jewish culture be shared, since I do celebrate Yom Kippur,” said Cole Fertel, 10.

          “I feel like many of these observance days also serve for good POC representation, since it shows diversity in the holidays that Fairfax has added to their calendar,” opined Isabella Jimenez, 11, when asked if she finds cultural observations to be a positive decision.

          Though most students have found a positive outlook to these observances, a couple teachers expressed concern over the new policy’s restrictions on instructional time. One teacher, who wished to stay anonymous, remarked, “The school calendar already includes many breaks in the continuity of learning; now we’re faced with more , which is stressing out AP- level classes who are already struggling to cover content for their AP exams.”

          Despite the many different outlooks towards FCPS’s cultural observation days, it was mainly created to help spread connectivity and provide their wide diversity of students and staff with the advantages they need in order to enjoy their culture, without any educational setbacks.