An extra school day has students and teachers talking at Old Rochester Regional High School this month.
It was roughly a year ago when the Joint School Committee voted that Tri-Town schools would be in session on Good Friday of this year (April 3, 2015). When that announcement was made, a discussion emerged on the ethics behind the decision and received extensive coverage in the press.
After dying down for the last 11 months, the dialogue has re-emerged on the topic. The school day will go on as planned and excused absences will be allowed for students to take the day off for religious reasons.
A survey conducted of roughly 30 students (evenly split male and female, representing all grades) indicated that the vast majority prefers not to have school on Good Friday. Some will chalk this up to the general feeling among high school students that any day off of school is a good one. However, most students backed up their statements by saying that Good Friday should be an optional school day or that excused absences should be allowed.
The majority of surveyed students also plan to come to school on that day, regardless of their personal feelings on the matter. A few students, as well as two teachers and Principal Mike Devoll, were interviewed in greater depth on the matter.
Science teacher Heidi Graser agrees with a position taken by several surveyed students – excused absences make sense.
“I think it’s fair,” she said, adding that most people have to work on Good Friday.
In reference to having the day before Thanksgiving off, which was acknowledged as a concession for having school on Good Friday, Graser said she was happy to have that day off.
“The students are so excited [for the holiday weekend], but not much gets done,” she said.
Another point brought up by Graser was that the extra day was helpful for teachers like her, who teach Advanced Placement (AP) classes. However, she respects the decision of those students who will excuse themselves, explaining, “If you need to excuse yourself for religious reasons, you should.”
Math teacher Benjamin Tilton said the decision didn’t faze him, and that “180 days is 180 days.” His opinion isn’t affected by all the snow days, and he added that he believes having no school on the day before Thanksgiving was a “fair exchange.”
Principal Mike Devoll said that excused absences will be allowed on Good Friday and explained that the decision to keep school in session on Good Friday was out of religious fairness.
Defending the decision made a year prior, Devoll explained, “We don’t take the Jewish holidays off, and Good Friday is not a holy day of obligation during the school hours,” meaning that Catholic students can attend Mass later in the day. He added, “It will be interesting to see our attendance rate for that day.”
Senior Owen Lee takes the decision to have school with a grain of salt and provided a fresh opinion on the subject.
“I mourn the loss of a wonderful vacation day, but I don’t have a true opinion,” Lee said. “It’s pretty fair,” he continued, “as long as the status quo of the schedule [180 days] is maintained.”
Lee also said the abundance of snow days carried no weight in his opinion, and he projected that while some students will not attend school, rampant truancy would probably not be a problem.
“I’m sure some students won’t be happy with this decision,” he said, but he expects most students to be in classes that day, saying, “Not many students generally skip school very often.”
However, junior Jared Wheeler would have liked to see Good Friday maintained as a vacation day rather than the day before Thanksgiving, because as he put it, “Good Friday is a significant religious holiday.”
In the end, Good Friday is only one day of school, and the school day itself is unlikely to be any different from your normal school day. As Mr. Devoll said, the most interesting development of the day will be to see if there is some change, if any, in student and teacher attendance.
By Patrick Briand