Iowa City School District approves student day off for Lunar New Year to be ‘respectful of different cultures’

Iowa City School Distract Approves Lunar New Year Holiday

Iowa City’s Community School District Board of Education has officially added Lunar New Year to its academic calendar as a day off for students and families who celebrate the important Asian holiday.

“Respectful of different cultures”: The decision was approved during a school board meeting on Nov. 23 and is set to begin during the 2022-2023 school year up until the  2024-2025 school year, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.

  • Speaking to Press-Citizen, school board member J.P. Claussen said the decision signifies the school district’s effort to provide a more inclusive and responsive community as the United States becomes more diverse.
  • On one hand, it’s symbolic. But on the other hand, for families who celebrate these holidays, it’s not symbolic at all. It’s just very practical and allows them to celebrate their culture in a way that doesn’t interfere with their education,” Claussen said. “And I think, to me, that’s just respectful of different cultures. And that’s what we’re attempting to do.”
  • Depending on the year, the Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival in China, typically begins in late January or early February. It is celebrated for 15 days in China and ends with the Lantern Festival. The celebration marks the beginning of a new year on the lunar calendar.
  • Meanwhile, Iowa’s capital city, Des Moines, has already announced a new update to its district school year calendar for 2022-2023, with the Lunar New Year school district holiday set to occur on Jan. 23 and 24, the Des Moine Register reported in October.

The petition: The Iowa City Area Chinese Association (ICACC) issued a petition urging Iowa City’s school board to consider making Lunar New Year a holiday after it approved the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr and the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur in April. The petition has reportedly received 1,369 signatures as of this writing.

  • While ICACC applauded the school board’s decision, the association said they were alarmed by the lack of a school district holiday that represents the Asian community. They also said that the day off could also help the Asian American student population celebrate the important holiday, which the group compared to Christmas for Americans.
  • With that day off, the Chinese families can really enjoy the day together, help the kids stay connected with some of the cultural roots and even spread the joy to others by inviting friends and families,” Nina Na Li and Weijing Wu, on behalf of the Iowa City Area Chinese Association (ICACC), said in a joint statement.
  • The ICACC also expressed gratitude toward city officials for proclaiming May 18 as AAPI Day Against Bullying. “During the past year, as the anti-Asian hatred diffused rapidly across the country, we especially see the urgency for our school community to take action to honor Asian heritage,” the group wrote.
  • The number of Asians in Eastern Iowa has reportedly increased in the past few years. In 2019, the U.S. Census released data showing that Asians made up 7.3% of Iowa City’s population.
  • In closing, we believe this recognition will benefit not only the Asian families but also help stopping hatred or misunderstanding in the community,” the ICACC wrote.

The number of classes will reportedly be increased next year to accommodate the three added school district holidays, making June 6 the last day of school instead of May 31, the newly approved calendar reads.

Featured Image via Billwhittaker (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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