Hillsborough School Board to consider Good Friday classes
TAMPA -- School may be canceled next year in Hillsborough County when Good Friday rolls around -- but it won't have anything to do with religion.
That's the strategy a district committee endorsed last month, recommending that the School Board declare next April 22 a "non-student" day due to a trend of high absences on the holiday.
On Tuesday the board is scheduled to consider that advice at its 3 p.m. meeting. The board's attorney has said board members can't take religion into account in making such a decision, but they can use common sense.
"The Constitution doesn't require you to hold school on Christmas, as long as people aren't going to show up," attorney Tom Gonzalez told the board.
Some 42 percent of students and 19 percent of bus drivers stayed home, attended church or went to the beach this year on Good Friday, which fell on April 2.
Some calendar committee members called that progress compared to 2008, when 58 percent of students and twice as many bus drivers stayed home. They urged the board to stick with its secular calendar. To do otherwise risked creating the perception of religious favoritism, Jewish and Muslim leaders said.
But other panel members said holding classes on Good Friday would be little more than an exercise in futility, with little learning taking place amid the mass absences.
What do you think? Should the school board stick to its guns and maintain a secular calendar, or bow to the will of the majority?
Tom Marshall, Times staff writer