Montclair public schools will open this year on the second day of Rosh Hashana.
The 2010-11 academic calendar for Montclair, released on March 22, lists the first day of day of school as Friday, Sept. 10, which also happens to be the second day of Rosh Hashana.
In the Orthodox and Conservative movements — and, to a lesser extent, among Reform Jews — the second day of Rosh Hashana is considered as stringent as the first.
John Carlton, president of the Montclair school board, learned of the conflict from New Jersey Jewish News.
“It’s sort of a surprise,” he said in an April 2 phone call. “The proposal for the school calendar was put out to the community. Nobody mentioned it.”
Still, he called the scheduling “unfortunate” and promised to bring it up with the rest of the school board. He also mentioned, however, that the board is “somewhat constrained” with regard to the first day of school in order to have the required number of days on the calendar.
Dr. Frank Alvarez, superintendent of schools, was unable to respond by press time.
Rabbi David Greenstein of Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Montclair said he had already reached out to several school board members.
“I understand there is a commitment to reconsider the decision,” he said last Friday. “Hopefully, they will revisit it and wisdom will win out and school can start the following week.”
Greenstein called it “an unfortunate choice for the beginning of school.”
“The first day is a day people hate to miss,” he said. “That creates extraordinary pressure on families, especially families with young kids, to send their kids to school that day. It would be different if it was in the middle of a schedule that had already begun.”
While some districts are closed only the first day of the holiday, opening day for the schools is earlier that week. And in the nearby districts of Livingston and South Orange-Maplewood, school will open the day after Labor Day, Sept. 7, and will be closed both days of the holiday, Sept. 9 and 10.