Lunar New Year school holiday likelyMay 29, 2014 • By The Villager
BY SAM SPOKONY | As Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown Partnership, put it, it’s been a long time coming. Even as they’ve continued to build communities, Chinese families all over the city have always had to choose whether to send their kids to school on the Lunar New Year or keep them home to celebrate the major cultural holiday.
“In Flushing, they’re waiting, and in Sunset Park, they’re waiting,” Chen said at a May 16 press conference.
They may not have to wait much longer, as the state Legislature has now taken a major step toward compelling the city’s Department of Education to close schools on the Lunar New Year.
The state Senate passed a bill May 13 that would require officials to consider closing schools if a “considerable proportion” of students are likely to be absent. Since the state Assembly had already passed that bill in February, it will now go to the desk of Governor Cuomo, who, by most accounts, is likely to sign it into law soon.
“Passage of this bill to push the Lunar New Year school holiday is proof that momentum is building,” state Senator Daniel Squadron, who sponsored the bill, said at the May 16 press conference outside Chinatown’s P.S. 124, on Division St.
“And we’re confident that we’re going to get Lunar New Year as a school holiday permanently,” he added, “so that everyone in this community knows that their holiday tradition is part of what our school system respects.”
Squadron said the absentee rate at P.S. 124 this past Lunar New Year, exceeded 60 percent — and the absentee rate at P.S. 130, on Baxter St., was around 80 percent.
The bill’s passage was also celebrated that day by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, as well as Assemblymember Felix Ortiz of Brooklyn, and Assemblymember Marcus Crespo of the Bronx, who had also supported the bill.
“Parents should not have to choose between celebrating their cultural heritage and their children’s learning time at school,” said Silver.
Maloney said she’s been so “inspired” by the push for Lunar New Year school closure that she’s “definitely taking this idea back to Washington.”
Chen rounded out the remarks by verbally taking “a deep bow” on behalf of the Chinese community.
“We’re deeply grateful for all this,” he said.
It should be noted that students will be off for next year’s Lunar New Year regardless of any D.O.E. decision, since the holiday, which falls on Feb. 19 in 2015, will occur during the scheduled winter break.
D.O.E did not respond to a request for comment.