Board defends Diwali, Veterans Day decision

Staff Writer

Woodbridge school officials are defending their decision to give students a day off for Diwali next fall and keep schools open on Veterans Day.

Board of Education President Brian Molnar took time during the board’s Feb. 20 meeting to clear up what he described as a misunderstanding among some members of the community. He said school has been in session on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, for many years, and the decision to give students off on Oct. 23 for Diwali did not come at the expense of a day off on Veterans Day.

“The last time [the students] had off for Veterans Day was the 1993-94 school year,” he said.

Superintendent of Schools Robert Zega said officials tried to get the proposed 2014-15 school calendar out to the public as early as possible, and held a public meeting in January specifically for discussion of the calendar.

“There was not one mention of Veterans Day,” he said. “We’ve been in school on Veterans Day for 20 years. … This is in no way an attempt to insult or disparage the veterans.”

Schools hold activities on Veterans Day to recognize those who have served, and often bring in veterans to speak with students or to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance or a flag raising.

“We believe these activities are more educational for the children,” Zega said. John Bader, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the school district’s social studies department has worked with the township’s Veterans Alliance in recent years to arrange for veterans to spend a day with schoolchildren.

Bader said a meeting is scheduled for March 6 to expand the program so that veterans visit every elementary, middle and high school in the district on Veterans Day.

“This way, the kids get to learn about these role models that live in the community,” he said.

Molnar said he is amazed when he hears about the experiences of the veterans who live in the community.

“The worst thing we can do is forget,” he said.

The 2014-15 calendar brings several changes from the current school year’s schedule of days off and seasonal breaks. The school year will begin Sept. 3. Unlike last fall, schools will be closed for Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 25-26, followed a month later by the Diwali holiday. The board decided to close schools for the Hindu festival after the idea was discussed during the public meeting on the calendar.

Fall break has been shortened from a week to just two days, Nov. 6-7. Another major change involves spring break, which has been moved up to April 3-10.