Caroline Reichard '21
If you check the Montrose calendar, you can see that we miss about two weeks of school per year because of Catholic religious holidays. However, when you look for days off for non-Catholic religious holidays, you’ll find that there are none. Although Montrose is an independent school in the Catholic tradition, its students are not all Catholic. For a school that values diversity, our calendar does not reflect our value of non-Catholic students’ religions.
Because non-Catholic students are not given days off for their religious holidays, they may be forced to either miss valuable days of learning or forgo their religious traditions. Amira Akar ‘21 fasted throughout Ramadan while contending with heavy end-of-year coursework. She said: “I felt a little stressed because I needed to be able to give 100% attention to final projects and AP studying, and it’s super hard doing all that running on no food or water.” Since she had to spend so much time studying and preparing for AP exams, she was not able to participate in important religious traditions such as “Laylatul Qadr” or “Night of Power.” She explained that on those nights, her family got to spend hours together praying important prayers to Allah for forgiveness of sins, but she said: “I had to sleep in order to have maximum study time and strength for my AP exam the next day.”
In order to allow students to celebrate their religious holidays fully, Montrose could take those important days off, or at least provide flexibility and a lighter workload. Amira recognized: “Days off or workload adjustments would allow me to connect deeper with the traditions in Ramadan.” Hansini Gundavarapu ‘24, who practices Hinduism, agreed and said: “If we got even a little less homework on major holidays, it would make so much of a difference; we would be able to have more time to celebrate, and we could spend more time with family.” Although it may not be possible for Montrose to take every religious holiday off, it can at least allow for a lighter workload on those important days.
Even iconic Montrose traditions, such as Field Day, can clash with students’ religious commitments. Amira explained that Eid-Al-Fitr is the most important day of Ramadan, but this year it ended up on Field Day. She said: “I sadly couldn’t go to my Jama Prayer at the mosque with my family in the morning, and I could not celebrate my family’s Eid traditions because I needed to be present for Field Day.” She added: “Don’t get me wrong — I love Field Day — but maybe just not so much when it conflicts with a very major holiday for my family!” Students should not have to choose between their religious holidays and what is arguably the most looked-forward-to day at Montrose. Thus, administrators need to take religious holidays into consideration while planning important events.
In all fairness, when Montrose scheduled Field Day on Eid-Al-Fitr, it was most likely not an active decision to conflict with an important religious holiday. It was likely an oversight, a product of a lack of education about non-Catholic religions. Amira suggested: “If Montrose could teach students about what Ramadan is and what this holy month means, I feel like it could be a great step to overall inclusivity of other cultures and religions.” She added: “I think the best way Montrose could teach students about Ramadan could be through movies like Muhammed: Legacy of a Prophet, and even just YouTube videos from Al-Jazeera and Behind the News!”
This idea of education applies not only to Ramadan, but also to other holidays. Hansini Gundavarapu ‘24 agreed that education and recognition could make all the difference in fostering a spirit of inclusivity. She suggested that religious holidays could be featured in newspaper articles and the daily announcements. She said: “It would just be so nice to have someone say ‘Happy Holi!’ on Holi.” Surely Montrose can utilize its many resources, such as Common Homerooms and the Looking Glass, in order to promote education about non-Catholic religious holidays. With those holidays then on the school radar, Montrose and its teachers would be more aware of them, and therefore more willing to be flexible with students’ coursework, realizing that they need to balance work and traditions.
In a school where so many different religions are represented, our schedule should reflect that we value every religion. Although class schedules may not allow for students to take all religious holidays off, teachers can design their teaching plans to provide flexibility for students around holidays. Montrose, through movies, YouTube videos, announcements, and articles, can promote education about these religious holidays, and thus promote awareness of them. With awareness comes inclusivity, which is why education is so important.
Montrose has done so much already. We have navigated a pandemic, Zoom, and more. Surely Montrose can make time to educate students and faculty about non-Catholic religious holidays and make them a factor in scheduling decisions.
Hana Shinzawa, Opinions Editor and Co-Copy Editor