Vote to accommodate Muslim holiday could cause earlier start date for MCPS

- Muslim families in Montgomery County have been lobbying for years to have the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha as a holiday off for students.

On Tuesday, the Montgomery County school board voted that instead of creating a new holiday on the school calendar, they would use one of their in-service days -- which are days when students don't attend classes -- to fall on September 12, the same day Eid al-Adha is observed in 2016.

But this has also created a problem. The school system has only five in-service days to work with, so the school board considered moving the first day of school three days earlier to August 24.

That proposal drew sharp and negative reaction from parents, and now the school board president has told FOX 5 that they will need more time to discuss this proposed plan before finalizing the school calendar for 2016-2017.

“Have we had enough conversation and discussion over that? And I think we just needed to kind of hit the pause button and get that together,” Montgomery County Board of Education president Michael Durso said.

While Muslim supporters were happy about the holiday decision, not everyone else is. Some parents said the board is going back on its policy of not recognizing religious holiday.

"They said that they cannot and will not close schools to honor a religious holiday, and yet they are looking at moving a professional day to close schools for students for a religious holiday,” said parent Ellen Paul.

"I think it's a great thing,” said Saqib Ali, a supporter for the observed Muslim holiday. “I'm super happy. My daughters are now going to be more equal to everybody else in our neighborhood and their little playmates. It's really hard to argue against equality.”

Other religious groups such as Hindus are also coming forward asking for their holiday of Diwali to be added to the school calendar as a day off for students.

The school board has not come up with a decision on what do and they still do not have an official calendar approved for the 2016-2017 school year.

The board president told us they will get back to work and hope to have a solution before Christmas break.

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