By Shirley N Lew
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill into law that would allow New York City schools to have the option to close in observance of the Lunar New Year, according to an announcement from the New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
The bill was first introduced in January and supported by many community leaders who felt it only made sense for schools to close when a majority of the student population is absent in observance of the holiday.
The largest Asian student population in New York are in Manhattan’s Chinatown and Flushing, Queens. One school alone, P.S. 124 located on Division Street in Chinatown, had as much as 60% of the students absent last year for the holiday.
Councilwoman Margaret Chin spoke about her support of this bill and how she is happy to finally see it signed into law. She’ll continue to work with the Department of Education to see that all public schools will be closed in observance of the Lunar New Year in the future.
“On behalf of the thousands of Asian American families in my district, I extend my gratitude to Speaker Silver and Senator Squadron for their leadership on this, and to Governor Cuomo for recognizing the deeply rooted importance of the Lunar New Year holiday within our Asian American communities,” Council Member Margaret Chin said.
“Lunar New Year is a day of great celebration and a time for families to be together, especially here in our Chinatown community. With this new law, we urge the city to ensure that schools are allowed to close so that parents do not have to choose between celebrating their cultural heritage and their children’s learning time. Students, who want to be diligent and have good records, should not have to be marked absent on such an important occasion,” said Assembly Speaker Silver.
When I attended public school in Chinatown, I recall going to school on Lunar New Year for fear of missing classes and not being able to catch up on the lesson. Even with such an important holiday, my immigrant parents emphasized education and never kept me home for fear of falling behind. My family, however, recognized the holiday by having a family meal to celebrate the Lunar New Year before I headed off to school.
According to NY1, while much of the attention has been on Lunar New Year, the law will apply to all cultural holidays that might cause a large absence in school.
Would you or your children still attend school on the Lunar New Year? Do you think signing the Lunar New Year bill into law was the right thing to do? Share your thoughts with us.