A newly revised holiday calendar was approved during the Oct.9 East Lansing Public Schools board meeting. The calendar now displays 24 holidays the community recognizes. The holiday added this year is Persian Nowruz, an Iranian holiday.
Adding Persian Nowruz to its holiday calendar shows the district is committing to recognizing its diverse culture.
“East Lansing Public Schools is incredibly proactive about supporting various religious holidays,” said District Mental Health District Mental Health Coordinator Heather Findley. “We know we have diverse student and staff learning communities, so we want to embrace that.”
District Director of Equality and Social Justice Klaudia Burton recognizes that Christian holidays were a huge focus, but the need to create a calendar shows off the community’s various celebrations.
“Our calendars often focus on Christian dominance, so it is important for us to recognize our rich diversity within our community,” said Burton. “That’s why we made this calendar to ensure that we are attentive to the differences within our community and that we’re serving our students and families who partake in these cultural and religious observations.”
East Lansing Public Schools’ mission statement is “nurturing each child, educating all students, and building world citizens.” Currently, that is extremely important to the success of the community.
“From nurturing, each child aspect connects to this because we are trying about the physical dates on the calendar but more about what we do with them,” said Burton. “Part of my job is ensuring our staff understands these dates to give a child grace. Next, from the education level, we try to make students understand why their friends might be absent one day, ultimately trying to build them for when they become a more significant part of society after graduating.”
In today’s day and age, cultural acceptance is crucial, and integrating religious holidays into everyday learning helps to make students and staff aware and gives them a sense of belonging. However, Burton understands this is a challenging task.
“It’s essential but sometimes challenging to accomplish,” said Burton. “We want to be mindful of making sure we are informing correctly about what’s happening, so we often listen to experts in the community. We must work on correcting myths about some of what different cultures are about.”
Making sure the school community feels ‘seen, heard, and valued’ is something Findley thinks is paramount to success.
“One of the things we know about traumatic events or incidents, whether it’d be close to home or far away, it can still hit home in a student’s heart,” said Findley. “One of the biggest things we emphasize is recognizing the whole child, so students aren’t just here for academics.”
The district has over 60 nationalities represented across eight different buildings.
“There’s so much of a learning opportunity we have; we engage with so many people worldwide, and it’s beautiful,” said Burton.
Steps are going in the right direction for East Lansing Public Schools, but the process is still unfinished.
“East Lansing is growing and learning,” said Burton. “At the same time, we have a lot to continue to understand and build within our staff to support the rich diversity of our schools. However, we believe we are moving in the right direction.”