Eden Prairie Schools To Change Start Date, Avoiding Rosh Hashanah

After a combination of parental outcry, student activism, and communal advocacy, the Eden Prairie School Board will be approving the 2021-22 school calendar so that the first day of school does not fall on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

The board was presented with the full calendar at the Jan. 25 meeting and will vote to approve it on Feb. 22.

Deb Zwiefelhofer, who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting with her daughter, Eliana, thanked the board for its willingness to change the start date to Sept. 8.

“This has been a really hard year for all the kids,” she said. “And when my daughter and some of her friends saw when the first day of high school was and that they may have to miss it for religious reasons it was devastating.”

Superintendent Josh Swanson said that the skeleton calendar – which shows the first and last days of school, winter break, and spring break – was approved last year. He acknowledged that the date of Rosh Hashanah was missed by all involved.

“We have a true understanding of the anxiety and frustration the calendar has caused,” said Stacie Stanley, the assistant superintendent for academics and innovation. We also recognize that the calendar revolves around federal holidays and the dominant culture. All are not served the same their experiences are different.”

Tuesday, Sept. 7, which would have been the first day of school, is now a compensatory day for teachers that is usually given later in the year due to conferences. Thomas May, executive director of human resources, said the teachers were supportive of the change.

The school board members all indicated they were supportive of the change and appreciated the feedback and resources in the community, including that of the Jewish Community Relations Council chair Adam Seidel said.

“I appreciate some of the resources that exist that will be helpful,” Seidel said.

Stanley said that inclusivity in the calendar process will be important – and not overlooked – going forward.

“We’re an interfaith community,” she said. “We want to partner with the community and hold a variety of meetings with faith-based leaders and experts to design a process we can use for future calendars.”

Said Vice Chair Beth Fletcher: “I want to thank the students who wrote in. They are following our mission and core values that they see the intrinsic value in everyone.”