The Department of Education in New York City has made an exciting announcement regarding the school calendars for the next three academic years. A notable change includes the addition of Diwali as a public holiday, starting from the following year.
This year, Diwali falls on Sunday, November 12, which means students will have a day off from school. However, the revised school calendar for 2024 designates November 1, 2024, and October 20, 2025, as days off to observe Diwali. By releasing the approved calendars well in advance, the Department of Education allows staff and school communities to plan ahead. The decision to publish a three-year calendar was prompted by the delay in releasing the calendar for the upcoming academic term.
In addition to the inclusion of Diwali, the revised calendar brings several other changes, such as the addition of four extra vacation days. Spring vacation will now span from April 22 to 30. Moreover, schools will be closed on April 1, the day following Easter, and on Monday, June 17, to observe Eid al-Adha.
The inclusion of Diwali as a holiday became possible, in part, due to the efforts of State Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar, who introduced a bill officially recognizing Diwali as a school holiday starting from the following year. Diwali holds great significance for thousands of New Yorkers, particularly those of Nepali and Indian heritage, as it symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness. This development follows recent legislation allowing holidays in the largest school system in the nation, which was passed by state lawmakers.
Mayor Eric Adams has declared that New York City’s public schools will be closed on Diwali, marking a momentous victory for local families and the South Asian community. Mayor Adams expressed confidence that the bill will be signed by Kathy Hochul, although reports suggest that Governor Hochul is currently reviewing the bill. Mayor Adams considers this announcement a symbolic step that provides reassurance to those eagerly awaiting this recognition. In 2015, New York City designated school closures for two major Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. However, the exclusion of Diwali disappointed many South Asian and Indo-Caribbean parents and advocates. Diwali holds religious significance for Hindus and is also celebrated by Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists.
Mayor Adams had promised to celebrate Diwali as a school holiday immediately after being elected. However, upon taking office, he sought the support of state lawmakers who had been introducing bills to recognize Diwali for the past two years. Immigrant rights activists see this announcement as the culmination of a decade-long effort to bring about this change.
Including Diwali in the school calendar faced a challenge due to a state law requiring 180 instructional days per year. To accommodate the Diwali holiday, another festival had to be removed or the number of emergency or snow days had to be reduced.
Back in 2010, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged the Lunar New Year and two Muslim holy days as school holidays. However, adherence to the state’s 180-day rule prevented the addition of any other holidays, including Diwali, to the calendar. The recently passed bill now grants the city the authority to make such decisions.