Waterbury Public Schools will now observe two Muslim holidays

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WATERBURY -- The Waterbury school board voted Thurs. Feb. 5 to recognize two holidays on the Muslim calendar, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, which will now count as an excused absence for students. Teachers are encouraged to refrain from scheduling important events, tests, or field trips on those days.

Hundreds of people petitioned the Waterbury School Board to recognize the two holidays. The days are important in the faith as it calls for families and communities to come together to break a period of fasting.

Back in January, the Waterbury Board of Education met in a workshop to discuss the proposal.

"I would have to choose between skipping school and missing important lessons," said Hafsa Khanem, a UConn student, and graduate of Waterbury Public Schools. "Or miss hanging out with my family and celebrating what my religion told me to celebrate and it feels great knowing that maybe one day my brothers won't have to do that."

At the workshop, the board seemed to agree that kids shouldn't have to choose between their studies and their faith, and seemed to be leaning towards adopting a policy which would officially recognize the two holidays.

The recognition only allows kids who observe those holidays to have excused absences from class and asks teachers not to schedule any major class events or tests on those dates.

"Our school board takes pride in the fact that we're very sensitive to all the needs of our students and that we have a diverse population in Waterbury," said Charles Stango, president of the Waterbury Board of Education. "That population deserves to have their culture represented and respected as any other individual."