The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

D128 BOE votes to adopt new operational calendar

Alex Clark
Superintendent Denise Herrmann answers a question posed by board member Ms. Sonal Kulkarni regarding the proposed operational calendar. Ms. Kulkarni voted against the calendar along with Ms. Cara Benjamin. The final vote was 4-2 in favor of the operational calendar.

After about an hour of discussion at the Board of Education meeting on Nov. 13, the D128 BOE voted to accept the motion to approve a new operational calendar for the 2024-25 school year and a draft calendar for the 2025-26 school year in a 4-2 vote.

What is the new calendar?

This calendar would not accommodate any religious holidays such as Yom Kippur, Eid, or Diwali, but would include a non-attendance day on Good Friday as an exception since it meets the threshold regarding the number of teachers and students that would not be in attendance.

Why is there a new calendar?

The discussion of which holidays would be on the calendar came up in Nov. 2022, after the Board of Education received a request from students and families for District 128 to honor Diwali as a religious holiday and have it reflected in our school calendar as a non-attendance day for students. 

In the past, the board had approved Eid-al-Fitr as a non-attendance day in 2020. This opened a discussion on whether the board would approve any holiday that was requested off by the community.

According to Superintendent Dr. Denise Herrmann, “In the past, we thought [what we were doing] was okay. Our attorney says it no longer works… and that we need to be prepared to have some rationale, some operational reason for any date that we would consider setting a non-attendance day.”

In the BOE Meeting Highlights from Nov. 13, Dr. Herrmann said, “After receiving opinions from legal experts, we learned that as a public school district, we are not able to schedule non-attendance days solely to accommodate religious holidays. In doing so we were violating state and federal guidelines.”

At the Nov. 13 BOE meeting at Vernon Hills High School, Superintendent Denise Herrmann explains the background of the adoption of an operational calendar. She said that the district has “diversity beyond those four religions [Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism], among festivals, and many of the board members recognize that this could be an ongoing decision that we may face in the future”. (Ash Magalhaes)

How was the calendar created?

The Calendar Committee, which included BOE members, teachers, students, parents and administrators, was asked to convene to review our school calendar and establish district calendar creation guidelines. The committee convened six times since March 2023 to establish these guidelines.

They worked to establish a threshold to determine which holidays would need to be scheduled as a non-attendance day based on a projection of how many teachers and students would be absent.

According to the board memo regarding the calendar, “At least 88% of staff must indicate that they will be present to provide instruction and instructional support on any given religious holiday and at least 75% of students at each school must indicate that they will attend school on any given religious holiday.”

Why is Good Friday an exception?

None of the religious holidays, other than Good Friday, met these thresholds created by the calendar committee from survey data. 

According to surveys sent to families and teachers, 26% of families said their student would be absent and 57% of teachers said they would be absent on Good Friday. This number meets the threshold to be considered a non-attendance day.

“I am torn with Good Friday,” Board Member Ms. Kara Drumke said, who ended up voting Yes for the calendar. “I do not want to be putting kids in a situation where we have 57% of our staff and faculty not available and it’s not a safe environment.”

Data for anticipated teacher and student absences on holidays like Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Eid-al-Fitr and Diwali did not meet these thresholds to where the district could not “deliver high-quality instruction” to students that do attend school on those days.

“We have to guess on all these [projected absences] because we haven’t tested these waters in decades,” Ms. Drumke said.

We have to guess on all these [projected absences] because we haven’t tested these waters in decades.

— Board Member Ms. Kara Drumke

Some parents thought the survey data used to make these decisions on which holidays to be designated as non-attendance days was an inaccurate assessment of how many students would be absent for each holiday.

“The data presented showed that less than a third of people replied to the survey and it was that data that was used to determine and make such a substantial change,” Kevin Horwite, a D128 parent, said. “It also did not include future Cougars or future Wildcats [in the survey].”

The President of the Islamic Foundation North, Ahmed Nader, and Rabbi Ari Margolis also spoke at the board meeting, among others. Nader said the lack of students at this meeting compared to the number of students who spoke up at the Sept. 26 meeting showed that students were “giving up” on this fight and that the fight was transferring over to the parents.

“I just don’t feel like this is going to be the end of the conversation,” Board Member Ms. Cara Benjamin said.

I just don’t feel like this is going to be the end of the conversation.

— Board Member Ms. Cara Benjamin

In this operational calendar, the only no school days for holidays are determined by the number of staff and students that would be absent that day. Because of the projected attendance, Good Friday is the only additional religious holiday recognized by the district. (Alex Clark)

This story has been revised from its original posting on 11/15/23.

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  • J

    John MonahanFeb 26, 2024 at 3:41 pm

    This decision was a mistake and religious holidays should be given back; by removing religious days off, not only are non-adherents deprived of a day of relaxation and/or a time to do studying or homework, but adherents have to choose between either skipping religious traditions or dealing with two day’s worth of homework and classwork in one day (literally). And it’s not like it’s impossible for LHS to rework their schedule to accommodate religious holidays (whilst also meeting legal requirements); plenty of other schools give religious holidays off.