Hillsborough approves calendar with Good Friday as school day
TAMPA -- After much discussion, the Hillsborough County School Board today voted to make Good Friday a regular school day in next year's calendar.
The board heard several members of the Christian community voice their opposition to that idea.
"Why should we not have holidays honoring Jesus, the Christ of America?," said Don Tanner, pastor at the Maranatha Church of God in Ruskin. "Christianity is historically embedded in the cultural roots of our land."
But district officials said they continue to support the idea of a calendar that favors no religious group over others.
And several board members said there simply wasn't enough data to know whether last year's nearly 60 percent student absence rate on Good Friday -- as well as the absence of about 40 percent of bus drivers -- was a good predictor of what will happen next April 2.
Jennifer Faliero registered the only dissenting vote on the seven-member board. She said the district couldn't risk a recurrence of those mass absences, and the potential risk to students left waiting on street corners for buses that never arrived.
"I think we have enough data to not hold school," Faliero said.
Superintendent MaryEllen Elia said the district would ensure that student safety is not compromised next Good Friday, and would reconsider its calendar if it could not do so. The issue will likely come up in negotiations with teacher and staff unions, she said.
"We’re going to address this up front with our employees, to have them understand the importance of being at work," Elia said.
For more details and updates, visit tampabay.com or read tomorrow's St. Petersburg Times.
Tom Marshall, Times Staff Writer