Long Island's public school students will return to classrooms over several dates to start 2023-24, beginning Aug. 30 in Jericho and ending Sept. 7 in more than a dozen school systems.
The largest group of Island districts, 59, will return on Sept. 5, the day after Labor Day, while the second-most, 43, will come back on Sept. 6. Districts are required to offer at least 180 days of instruction, but several will offer more. The Jericho district, which enrolls about 3,200 students, will offer 186 days of instruction.
The William Floyd district in eastern Suffolk County splits its opening days among grades. On Sept. 6, students in grades K-9 return to the classroom, and those in grades 10-12 return on Sept. 7.
There are several holidays affecting the school calendar this year. Most systems schedule time for the Jewish holidays. Some districts have added days off to recognize the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr in April and India’s Diwali festival in October.
“We have a 186-day calendar … and because we celebrate many of the cultural and religious holidays such as Diwali, Eid, Lunar New Year and the Jewish holidays, our calendar is stretched out and we start earlier than most other schools do on Long Island,” Jericho Superintendent Henry L. Grishman said. “There has been a philosophy in the Jericho school district for a very long time that … a longer school year is advantageous to the students of Jericho.”
According to the state Education Department, districts typically schedule more than the minimum of 180 days, both for educational purposes, but also to allow flexibility to cancel sessions under emergency conditions.
The department does not create holidays above and beyond what is required by the State Legislature.
Two bills related to school holidays passed the Legislature this year and are pending Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature, according to the Education Department. Neither creates a new state holiday, but both would require school cancellation on certain days. One bill would require schools to cancel sessions on Asian Lunar New Year, and another would require New York City schools to cancel sessions on Diwali. If signed, both would be effective for 2023-24.
It’s also common for districts to schedule superintendent’s conferences on days before when students arrive so that staff can prepare for the upcoming school year.
In the Malverne district, teachers start the school year Aug. 31, and students return Sept. 5. The district worked with its teaching staff to have them come back a day prior than what their contract calls for in order to fit the Muslim holiday of Eid into the school calendar for the 2023-24 term, Superintendent Lorna Lewis said.
The community had requested the holiday be added, and Lewis said the board of education approved it. “Inclusivity is one of our board goals,” Lewis said.
The district has set a theme for this coming school year — the first one educators said is far removed from the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions.
“We are so over COVID and looking forward to incredible opportunities for our students,” she said. “Our theme is Education on Purpose, and we are going to be purposeful about what we do in providing great trajectories for our students.”
Students in Brentwood, the Island’s largest district with an enrollment of about 17,000 students, return Sept. 6, and Superintendent Richard Loeschner said he expects the district to “hit the ground running.”
“It’s going to be a great school year, especially in terms of normalcy … so we are excited to start a new year,” he said.