Armenian Christmas a Potential School Holiday for GUSD

GLENDALE–The Glendale Unified School District is considering an initiative to incorporate Armenian Christmas as a school holiday.

The district lost more than $250,000 in state revenue because of the high numbers of student absences on January 6.

Based on reported student attendance–the California Department of Education pays Average Daily Attendance funds to public school districts. Armenia’s make up 30 percent of Glendale’s population–according to the US Census Bureau and more than one-third of the district’s 29,200 students are of Armenian descent. A majority of them–nearly 8,000–observed the holiday last year. A large number of the 3,000 staff members also are Armenian.

"This is an exciting time for the school board–as we would be the first school district in the country to identify Armenian Christmas as a holiday," noted school board vice president Greg Krikorian. "For the school board to recognize the holiday and be sensitive to its student and employee base would be a wise decision."

Results of a recent survey of Glendale Teachers Association members showed a 4-to-1 ratio in favor of extending next year’s winter break one week to include the Armenian observation of Christmas on January 6. Only traditional school calendar teachers were surveyed because traditional calendar schools–not year-round schools-would be affected by the schedule change.

"We have a large Armenian population–and–to be respectful of the tradition and the holiday–we had to look at switching the calendar around," said president of the Glendale Teachers Association Sandra Fink–in a recent interview with the Daily News. "It’s become a concern–if the students aren’t coming to school because they’re celebrating a holiday–we have to respect that holiday."

Many students also do not attend school on April 24 because of Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. The GUSD is considering setting aside the day as a holiday–but chances are that the measure will not pass. "I don’t think we can do the same thing with the genocide as the Armenian Christmas. The cutoff for attendance funds happens before April 24 and that kind of takes the urgency off of that day," said school board president Pam Ellis–in a recent interview with the Glendale News Press.

"Eventually we will get there–but I don’t think we are ready for that yet," she said–noting that the day is of absolute importance to the Armenian community.

The school board will be meeting on Tuesday–February 17 in the Administration Center Board Room–located at 223 N. Jackson Street. Public commen’s will be heard starting at 5 p.m.

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