During the 2016/2017 school year, approximately 20 people comprised of staff, parents, and members of the clergy participated in rich discussions as part of a newly founded Cultural Awareness Committee, which has recently been renamed the Diversity and Inclusion Team. Westford, like many other communities, is becoming a community of ever increasing diversity. The richness derived from this diversity surrounds us daily, and it is most important that we embrace it with respect, understanding, and accommodation.
Multiculturalism has had a significant and positive impact on our town and school system and it will continue to grow as families from other regions of our country and the world move to Westford to enjoy a bucolic quality of life and excellent education. The increasing diversity in our school system has resulted in recognition and appreciation of more religious and cultural discussions that are celebrated by our residents and students.
A Guide to Religious Observances was drafted to provide information and an appreciation of the traditions and family observances associate with the major religious and cultural holidays listed on our school calendar. Staff members have been asked to review this document throughout the year so that we can all understand the potential impact that these observances have on school attendance, the scheduling and completion of assignments, as well as the careful scheduling of events and activities.
During the 2016/2017 school year the Westford School Committee revised and approved policies relating to the school calendar and religious expression. I would like to note the following excerpt contained in policy 5203 (Religious Expression):
“A student may not be penalized for his/her observance of a religious holiday. The student is expected to complete work impacted by the religious observance within one week of the holiday. Any missed tests or quizzes shall be taken within a week of the missed day at a time mutually agreeable to the teacher and the student. At the elementary and middle school levels, it may be necessary to involve the student’s parent/guardian for transportation consideration. Staff and teachers shall provide students with class notes or syllabus, and any assignments prior to the absence if requested and if available. Otherwise these items shall be provided upon return from a religious holiday.
It’s important to note that the information provided in this Guide was developed from “Accommodating Our Religious Holiday Observance”: Winchester Multicultural Network, Winchester, MA, and “Guide to Religious Observance”: University of Missouri Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity.
As a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Team, it is my hope that this document will be helpful to you.
Everett V. Olsen, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools
The Guide to Religious Observances may be found online @ Guide
Office of the Superintendent of Schools
Westford Public Schools
23 Depot Street
Westford, MA 01886
Fax @ 978-339-2797
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