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New York City Schools Now Observe Lunar New Year as a Holiday

Patience Edet Goanue | 3/4/2014, 8:46 a.m.

Lawmakers announced the passage of legislation that would allow New York City schools to be closed on the Lunar New Year. The announcement was made at the headquarters of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in Manhattan, just blocks from P.S. 130 and other schools with large Asian American student populations.

The Lunar New Year marks the first day of the New Year, in the Chinese calendar, and was observed this year on January 31. The date changes however year to year, as the date is based on the cycles of the moon, and next year the Lunar New Year Falls on Feb 19.

Observance of the holiday will effect many NYC school children who already take the day off school. Schools in areas that have a high number of Asian American residents, such as Chinatown in Manhattan and Flushing in Queens, already report large numbers of absences on the Lunar New Year, the release said.

According to the Asian American Federation of New York Census Information Center, 75 percent of the Asian population in New York State live in New York City. Approximately one in six New York City public school students is Asian American. The Center also indicates that in 2000, Chinese, who celebrate the lunar new year, topped the list of the five largest Asian groups in New York City. Currently, students who celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday receive an ‘excused’ absence, meaning they miss a full day of classes and have the absence marked on their record, the release said.

In a move to recognize the diversity of the student body in the city, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblyman Ron Kim made the announcement on February 3.

“New York City is truly a melting pot of different religions and cultures and its citizens should be allowed to embrace and celebrate their holidays,” Speaker Silver said. “This legislation would allow the city to give these students the option to fully celebrate their holiday without worrying about being marked absent from school, missing a test or falling behind on their homework.”

The bill requires the city’s Department of Education to consider closing schools if a holiday is likely to result in “a considerable proportion” of students being absent, the release said.

“On such a significant and special day to so many of my constituents and New Yorkers throughout the city, a permanently marked absence from school should be the last thing on their child’s minds,” Assemblyman Kim said.