Mayor Bill de Blasio came to Flushing Tuesday morning to announce that the Lunar New Year will be an official public school holiday beginning in the 2015-16 school year, allowing students of Asian descent to celebrate with family without missing class.
The mayor made the declaration at P.S. 20 in Flushing, which counts 75 percent of the student body as being of Asian descent. The Lunar New Year has already been added to the NYC public school calendar and will take place next year on February 8.
“There was a lot we had to balance to get this right,” said de Blasio, who cited difficulties in ensuring that the state-mandated 180 yearly school days fit into the plan. “It took some work, but it happened.”
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña emphasized the importance of keeping a steady education schedule for the 1.1 million students of the city and offered her support of new holiday. To make up for the school hours lost, two separate half-days already in the calendar will be lengthened to become full days of classes.
“Taking time off to honor people’s heritage is also important,” said Fariña.
This is the second time de Blasio had made moves toward cultural inclusion in the school calendar. In March he also declared the two holiest days in the Islamic calendar, Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha, as official public school holidays.
The mayor was joined by a host of officials and community leaders who had long been advocating for the change.
“For too long, families have been forced to choose between celebrating this important cultural holiday and sending their child to school,” said Councilman Peter Koo, a Shanghai native. “By including Lunar New Year in the school calendar, New York City shows that we are an ever-evolving city that takes pride in the cultural traditions of its diverse populations.”
“This holiday is not about kids just getting a day off from school,” added Assemblyman Ron Kim, who attended P.S. 20 as a student himself 30 years ago. “It’s about the City of New York telling hundreds of thousands of Asian Americans that their culture and heritage is part of the American fabric.”
Kim and Koo, along with Rep. Grace Meng and many other prominent members of the Asian-American community, have all pushed for the mayor to establish the school holiday after de Blasio promised to do so while on the campaign trail in 2013.
After seeing no movement forward in the initiative for the Lunar New Year, Kim took on the responsibility of pushing it forward himself this year by authoring state legislation which would have given all New York children the day off. While that bill is still pending, Kim has said that he would lay aside the legislation in the interest of collaborating with the de Blasio administration.