NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina announced Wednesday that New York City will become the largest school district in the nation to recognize Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as holidays on the official school calendar.
The announcement was made at PS/IS 30 in Brooklyn, where 36 percent of students were absent the last time Eid al-Adha fell on an instructional day.
In the coming 2015-16 school year, schools will close on September 24 for the Eid al-Adha, ensuring hundreds of thousands of Muslim families can observe the day. Eid al-Fitr, which falls over the summer in 2016, will be designated a holiday for those attending summer school.
New York City schools will not lose any instructional days as part of this change to the calendar.
"We made a pledge to families that we would change our school calendar to reflect the strength and diversity of our city," de Blasio said. "Hundreds of thousands of Muslim families will no longer have to choose between honoring the most sacred days on their calendar or attending school."
The DOE joins other school districts in states such as Vermont, Massachusetts and New Jersey that close its public schools in observance of Muslim holidays. The addition of the religious holidays Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha is a critical step toward ensuring that the school calendar reflects the diversity of the city's schools.
Students are allowed an excused absence from school for their religious and cultural observances, but that excused absence can still come at the expense of missing critical classroom instruction, exams or projects.
"We are committed to having a school calendar that reflects and honors the extraordinary diversity of our students," Farina said. "This new addition will also enable a teachable moment in the classroom for our students to learn about religious tolerance and the societal contributions of various cultures."
The DOE will continue to closely monitor spikes in absenteeism over holidays as it works toward its commitment to serve the needs of all students to ensure equality and respect for families and children of all faiths.
"Today we are feeling so attached with the city thank you," said Shahana Masum, overwhelmed with tears of gratitude. She didn't think she would see the day two sacred Muslim holidays would be observed in New York City public schools.
For her and many others at PS 30 in Brooklyn, it was a historic and emotional moment as Mayor de Blasio announced the addition of the recognized school holidays.
"I was standing there and I was thinking that my children, my daughter and my grandchildren they don't have to go through what we went through," she said.
According to the district nearly 1 in 8 children now attending New York City public schools are Muslim, and until now many have been forced to choose between observing their religion or attending class on holy days.
"Celebrating my holiday just means a lot like I don't feel like it's fair for other religions to celebrate their holiday and get school days off and not the Muslim community," said ninth grader Sabreen Judeh.
Mayor De Blasio called the new changes to the school calendar common sense and long overdue in reflecting the city's diversity and growing Muslim population, while Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina believes the addition of the two holidays will provide a teaching moment for all students.
Next school year all schools will be closed September 24th for Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr will be observed during summer school.
"I think we have a larger discussion that we have to have in this city and in this nation a deeper understanding of the Muslim faith," said Mayor de Blasio.
It's understanding Shahana and many others say they've been praying for for a long time...and now feel as though they're prayers have been answered.
00:10:07 thank you God and thank you all the people who worked together
New York City is now the largest school district in the nation to recognize these two Muslim holidays. Joining other school districts in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Jersey
2 Muslim holidays to be added to New York City public school calendar
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