NYC mayor declares Lunar New Year a public school holiday

Updated: 2015-06-24 09:13


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NEW YORK - Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday announced Lunar New Year an official public school holiday in New York City, which will allow tens of thousands of students of Asian descent to celebrate the festival without having to miss class.

The observation of Lunar New Year as a holiday in public schools is considered a recognition of the growing number of Asian students in the city's school system. The holiday will start from the public school calendar next year, which will fall on Feb 8, 2016.

"We pledged to families we would keep working until we made Lunar New Year an official school holiday, and today we are keeping that promise," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who referred to one promise made by himself during his 2013 mayoral campaign that students will also have a day off on the Lunar New Year.

The city's Department of Education had been working on adding another holiday while maintaining the legally mandated 180 days of instruction. The problem has been solved by merging two half days that previously did not count toward the total into a single full day that can be tallied.

New York City is the second major urban school district in the United States, after San Francisco, to add Lunar New Year to the official school calendar.

Michael Witt, who is in his 40s and works for a company on Wall Street, said celebrating Lunar New Year is a traditional culture for Asians, and after a long time of consideration, New York City finally made the decision to recognize this tradition and the importance of cultural diversity with Asia included, which is a correct direction.

Zhang Guodong, president of New York Long Island Chinese Society, also heralded the move, saying this is definitely a good thing that New Year City has made the Lunar New Year an official school holiday.

There are more and more Asian students in New York public schools nowadays, and the population is catching up with some other ethnic groups. So it's reasonable to recognize and make Lunar New Year equally important as other festivals that have already been celebrated, said Zhang.

Asian-Americans are the fastest growing community in New York City, with nearly 175,000 students of Asian descent enrolled in public schools, according to official data.