AUGUSTA — A proposal from a group seeking to add major religious holidays for multiple religions, including Jewish and Muslim holidays, to school calendars goes to the Augusta Board of Education’s Policy Committee Monday for more discussion, after board members failed to come to a consensus on what, if anything, to do with the proposal previously.

The proposal does not seek to have any religious holidays become days off from school for students, or have those holidays recognized in the classroom.

Instead, according to Rabbi Erica Asch of Temple Beth El in Augusta, a leader of the local group which has already brought the proposal to Winthrop Schools, Regional School Unit 2 and Regional School Unit 38 for discussion and action, the proposal seeks to have major religious holidays placed on school calendars, even if they are only internal school calendars, so school officials are aware of when they occur, and will try not to schedule major school-wide events, such as field trips, parent-teacher conferences, or student class photograph days, on days that are major religious holidays.

Students, under the proposal, would also be able to miss school on the days of their major religious holidays and have the day count as an excused absence, and not count against them in determining attendance for year-end awards or for eligibility for participation in sports.

“It’s something the Jewish community has been thinking about for a long time, and the Muslim community is now experiencing,” Asch said. “We do think it’s important to have a policy that would be helpful for both parents and teachers. We’re asking that they go out on a calendar. So when a kindergarten teacher is planning an apple-picking field trip, they can look and see ‘Oh, that day is Rosh Hashanah, so we won’t plan it on this day.’ The policy doesn’t touch, at all, what things are taught in the classroom.”

Asch said the RSU 38, or Maranacook Area Schools, school board passed a version of the proposed policy, as did Winthrop. The RSU 2 school board is expected to vote on a version of the policy in the fall.


In Augusta the school board’s Policy Committee has discussed the proposal with the group twice, but has not yet voted on it. Minutes from the committee’s May 7 meeting indicate there was a lengthy discussion about the proposal, but there was no consensus, so the proposal was scheduled to be taken up again at Monday’s meeting, which is scheduled to take place in the superintendent’s conference room at Capital Area Technical Center.

While Asch said the group has been told the meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, the agenda for the meeting, on the school department’s website, lists the meeting start time as 6:30 p.m.

Asch, whose husband, Chris Myers Asch, is a leader of the Capital Area New Mainers Project, noted Augusta is home to many immigrants, many of them Muslim.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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