By Heather Wanner
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Hoping to urge action from the Baltimore County Board of Education Tuesday night, members of the Asian-American community stressed the importance of closing schools on the Lunar New Year.
“Baltimore County Public Schools need to recognize the Asian holiday of Lunar New Year,” James Chen told school officials during the meeting at the Greenwood campus.
Chen, a father and a member of the Chinese American Parents Association, said that celebrating the Lunar New Year as a family helps ensure that love and support extends to future generations. “It is important to keep our cultural heritage and identity in this country.”
The Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year, falls on January 28, 2017. It is celebrated within Chinese religions by a traditional festival and is known as a time for family to spend together.
Although an official public holiday, Baltimore County Public Schools remain open each year on the Lunar New Year, unlike many businesses.
This was the second time since September that members of the Asian-American community turned out at a school board meeting to ask for the holiday off.
“Lunar New Year is the most important day of the Asian calendar,” said Ying Lin, a local parent.
Lin said her family wakes up at dawn on the Lunar New Year and watches the Chinese festival together. Festivities must come to an end when it is time for the children to get ready for school, she said.
“It is a constant struggle between the celebration of our heritage and the equally important value of education,” Lin said. She said she is concerned that children of the Asian-American community are not being given the full opportunity to celebrate their heritage.
“I never go to work on Lunar New Year, but I have never had the chance to celebrate with my children,” Chen said.
Lin urged, “This is a story of the Asian community’s children as a whole,” with almost 7 percent of Baltimore County Public School’s population being of Asian descent. Lin said about 19 percent of students are Asian American.
With Baltimore County Public Schools being so diverse, Lin and Chen, along with the rest of the Asian community, asked board officials to follow Howard County Public Schools, along with other regions nationwide, in closing schools on the Lunar New Year.
Lin and Chen also welcomed the notion of professional development days being scheduled on the same day as the Lunar New Year so they would still be able to recognize and celebrate the holiday.
“This is a necessary next step to help not just children from Asian decent embrace their traditions but also, to allow other students to understand that cherishing this diversity is an important and fundamental part of what makes America, America,” Lin said.