Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough School Board: No classes for students next year on Good Friday.

TAMPA — School will not be held for students next year when Good Friday rolls around, the Hillsborough County School Board decided Tuesday.

By a 5-2 vote, the board took the advice of a calendar committee and district staff to cancel classes that day, following two years of high absences and controversy.

But members expressed little confidence that the board's troubles over faith have passed.

"We can talk about this not being about religion," said member April Griffin, who voted against the measure along with Carol Kurdell. "But it is about religion."

The board has wrestled with the issue since 2005, when it first discussed adopting a "secular calendar" that keeps school in session during most religious holidays. The board finally did so in 2008.

According to some people, that policy has been working fine.

Last month, 42 percent of students and 19 percent of bus drivers stayed home on Good Friday — significantly lower than the absences in 2008, when 58 percent of students and about 38 percent of drivers were absent.

Under a district policy, students who miss school for religious reasons can make up missed work.

But members of a district calendar committee said little learning took place on Good Friday. Last month, a majority recommended a calendar that would declare it a "non-student day" next time, on April 22. Staff members are still expected to show up unless they take a personal day.

"We feel it is the best instructional calendar to advance student achievement," said Nick Whitman, executive director of the teachers' union.

Luis Perez, director of the union that represents bus drivers, said it wasn't safe to hold classes if many regular drivers were taking the day off.

"My fear is if more people choose to stay home next year, we risk having something dreadful happening," said board member Candy Olson.

"To me it's not a religious holiday issue," said chairwoman Susan Valdes. "It's a safety issue, it's a fiscal responsibility issue."

Board attorney Tom Gonzalez said the district cannot legally cancel school for religious reasons, but can for practical ones, including the likelihood of mass absences.

But that position did nothing to dissuade members of the public from lining up Tuesday in an effort to influence the vote.

"Why is the Bible not allowed in our schools?" asked Cita Rodriguez of Tampa, speaking through a translator. "A majority of Christians have asked that Good Friday be given off out of respect for God."

Mike Pheneger of Tampa said religious leaders have tried to hijack the issue for their own purposes.

"Because they want Good Friday recognized as a holiday, a Christian holiday," he said. "(Doing so) is an inappropriate action for you as constitutional officers of the United States."

Others said the current situation — a de facto holiday with high absences, with some students heading not to church but the beach — is unfair to other religious groups.

Jillian Boyar, a high school student from Brandon, said she has to make up schoolwork when she takes a day off to observe Jewish holidays. But many teachers just show films on Good Friday.

"It's unfair for me to have to make up school work when others do not," she said.

Tom Marshall can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3400.

Hillsborough School Board: No classes for students next year on Good Friday. 05/18/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 12:07am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Deputies: Wimauma teacher's aide sexually molested teen, 13


    A Wimauma teacher's aide faces charges lewd or lascivious molestation after Hillborough County deputies say he inappropriatly touched a 13-year-old girl.

    Sonny Juarez, 29, a teacher's aide in Wimauma, faces charges lewd or lascivious molestation after Hillborough County deputies say he inappropriatly touched a 13-year-old girl on several occasions while working at the RCMA Wimauma Academy, 18236 U.S. 301 S, between November 2016 and March 2017. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]

  2. Tampa Bay deputies head to UF to assist with Richard Spencer's speech

    Public Safety

    Local deputies are heading up to Alachua County in preparation of white nationalist Richard Spencer's speech in Gainesville on Thursday.

    Law enforcement is stepped up in Gainesville on Oct. 18, 2017, ahead of Richard Spencer's appearance. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
  3. Gymnast McKayla Maroney alleges sexual abuse by team doctor


    Two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney says she was molested for years by a former USA Gymnastics team doctor, abuse she said started in her early teens and continued for the rest of her competitive career.

    U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney poses after completing her routine on the vault during the Artistic Gymnastic women's qualifications at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Maroney posted a statement on Twitter Oct. 18, 2017, in which she said she was molested for years by former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar. [Associated Press]
  4. Top 5 at Noon: Facts on Richard Spencer's Florida visit; Column: Jameis, don't be a hero; Locale Market changes again


    Here are the latest headlines and updates on

    White nationalist Richard Spencer (C) and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Emancipation Park after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Spencer is set to speak at the University of Florida. [Getty]
  5. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Uncertainty surrounds Jameis Winston's health


    Greg Auman talks about the Bucs' quarterback situation, with uncertainty around Jameis Winston's health, in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Jameis Winston takes the field for warmups before the Bucs' game against the Cardinals Sunday in Glandale, Ariz. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]