Farmington school board reverses removal of religious holidays from academic calendar

A recent decision made by the Farmington Board of Education stirred up some controversy.
Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 6:47 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 5, 2022 at 11:58 PM EST
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FARMINGTON, CT (WFSB) - Farmington’s school board decided to reverse their decision to remove religious holidays from next year’s academic calendar.

Last month the board voted to remove two Jewish holidays from the school calendar and decided not to add the south Asian holiday Diwali. This vote sparked controversy among parents and a petition to reverse the decision was formed.

Community members say they felt discriminated against, and board members said that wasn’t their intention and believed kids needed more time in school.

The board also said they did not want to keep kids in hot classrooms during the summer.

After mounting pressure from parents, the school board voted to reverse their decision in a meeting on Monday.

The board also admitted their wrongdoings.

“I also wanted to express my heartfelt sorrow that our actions on November 14 will cost portions of our community to feel hurt. For that, I’m sorry,” says Chair Elizabeth Fitzsimmons.

At this meeting the board denied observing Diwali and said they will talk about it in a January meeting. Parents say they were upset that the board didn’t discuss Diwali as a holiday.

“Sort of an excuse I would say, for lack of a better word. But if something falls on the weekend, I think they should consider the next weekday. It also gives us a community to think of someone who doesn’t celebrate to reflect on it and make it more inclusive for the rest of us,” says Suraj Kurtakoti, a Farmington parent.

The board says they will change how they come up with the school year calendars. They claim the policy committee will now help determine which days the school should have off.


A recent decision made by the Farmington Board of Education stirred up some controversy.

The board voted to remove two Jewish holidays from the school calendar and will not be adding the south Asian holiday Diwali.

Parents are expected to bring up the recent changes at a school board meeting Monday night. As it stood on Monday, Farmington’s school calendar is different next year.

When the board voted to keep schools open on those Jewish holidays, a petition was started.

The pressure to keep those holidays has been strong, and Monday the board seems ready to rescind its decision.

“We are happy to see that. We have a had a lot of conversations,” said Eveline Shekhman.

Shekhman helped start a petition to keep Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as recognized holidays in addition to Christian holidays.

Last month, the board voted to do away with those Jewish holidays.

The board is planning to vote again, and the chair said: “I anticipate that the vote to open schools on the Jewish holidays will be rescinded at this evening’s meeting” and “Jewish holidays that fall on a school day will be a school closure.”

Another religious holiday the board may consider is Diwali, an important celebration for south Asians.

Several towns have included this on their school calendar including Newington, Avon and Rocky Hill where 30-percent of students are south Asian.

“There’s plenty of room in all our hearts and all of our towns, and we have the capacity to respect and appreciate and grow and learn from all the different festivals the world has to offer us,” said Tejal Vallam with the Vallabhdham Temple.

“Avon, our next-door neighbors added it,” said Suraj Kurtakuti of Farmington. “So, it’s kind of left people scratching their heads a little.”

“It’s about diversity being normalized, it’s about not pointing out all the things that make us different but finding things we have in common,” Shekhman said.

Jewish holidays have been on Farmington’s school calendar since 1999.

“They should be allowed to take off and welcomed to take off those days with every accommodation, meaning not be penalized whether an employee or student,” said David Waren, CEO, Hartford Jewish Federation.

Each school district decides its own academic calendar and which holidays to recognize.

The Farmington board plans to discuss the topic further at 7 p.m. on Monday at town hall.

Parents are expected to bring up the recent changes at a school board meeting Monday night.