Concerned parents from Port Arthur Independent School District (PAISD) contacted The Examiner on Wednesday, April 16 regarding the district’s decision to make Good Friday, April 18, a mandatory school day for students and faculty.
According to the PAISD Academic Calendar, available for viewing on www.paisd.org , the calendar was revised Feb. 19 to name April 18 and May 26 as bad-weather make-up days.
Good Friday is the Friday before Easter and the day on which Christians annually observe the commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus.
Several parents of PAISD children made travel plans that included Good Friday, April 18, and although the calendar change was made in February, said one concerned parent, the school district didn’t notify students until a couple of weeks ago.
The concerned parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said the school told him that if his child did not attend the mandatory make up day, the child would be counted absent.
Texas Education Agency (TEA) Spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson said that choosing make up days is a local decision, but that there is a provision, according to Texas Education Code (TEC) 25.087, that states, “A school district shall excuse a student from attending school for the purpose of observing religious holy days, including traveling for that purpose,” and as long as a parent provides written notice prior to the child’s absence and for the reason of observing a religious holy day, the absence shall not be counted against the student nor the district for Foundation School Program (FSP) funding purposes.
“There is a provision in law that allows for a student to be excused for observance of religious holidays,” Culbertson said. “It has to be a day observed by generally accepted religious affiliated organizations. In other words, it has to be something like a Good Friday or a Christmas or Rosh Hashana.”
Culbertson said the district could ask the parent to provide written notice that the student would be out for religious holiday.
“They require the parent to provide written notice, so the district can keep that in their files because as an excused absence by state law, the district will not lose funding for that purpose,” she said
Culbertson said if PAISD does count students absent for Good Friday who have provided written notice of plans to observe the day as a religious holiday, the district could be in violation of TEC law.
Calls to PAISD Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie were not returned as of press time.
Beaumont ISD will not be holding classes Friday, April 18. For West Orange-Cove CISD and Vidor ISD, Good Friday is an early release day for students, according to district websites.