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Quincy School Committee nixes idea of making Lunar New Year a school holiday

Parents and students held signs in support of adding Lunar New Year to the 2023-2024 school calendar ahead of the May 3 Quincy School Committee meeting.Claire Law/Globe Photo

QUINCY - Despite a push from students and parents, Lunar New Year will not be a holiday for Quincy Public Schools next year, but all who celebrate will be allowed an excused absence.

That was the decision of the School Committee, which voted 6-1 Wednesday to approve a new school calendar that did not include a day off for Lunar New Year, which is celebrated by many Asians.

During the meeting, some committee members said they were concerned that recognizing Lunar New Year could be seen as prioritizing the holiday over the holidays of other cultures.

“This is the ethnicity of the moment ... demographics change over every day. People come and go,” said member Douglas S. Gutro. “Why should we choose ethnicities and holiday observances based on [the] majority in our city? And I think that’s a fair discussion to have.”


Asian students comprise the largest ethnic group in Quincy schools, making up 39.3 percent of the total 9,649 students enrolled in the district this year, according to state enrollment data.

Parents and students held signs with messages such as “Representation Matters” and “The City of Quincy should support Asians,” to sway the committee to establish the holiday.

“This moment is about saying to the second largest population of Quincy, with zero representation in the school calendar year, that we see you,” Bartholomew Jae, 50, a parent of two, said during the public comment portion of the meeting.

One parent noted that Asian students will miss out on valuable learning time if Lunar New Year is not a school holiday.

“These students will miss teaching,” said Kate Campbell, 58, the mother of two Asian American high schoolers.

She also noted, “Their peers will miss the benefit of their presence.”

Lunar New Year, the families argued, is the most important holiday in the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean cultures, among others. A petition pushing for the school holiday, which was started by an Asian-American high school student in Quincy, gained over a thousand signatures.


Resident Esther Lee, 59, whose grandson attends Snug Harbor Elementary School, said she was surprised they voted against recognizing the holiday.

“I really (felt) that we do have a voice in Quincy, so passing this New Year holiday should be easy,” Lee said in an interview. “So that’s why I just want to speak up, just saying I hope they reconsider.”

Another resident, Susan Chinsen, 47, said she felt the committee’s decision was “deaf and not aware.” On Lunar New Year, Chinsen said her children stay home from school. The family follows customs including eating a traditional dinner, creating an altar for their ancestors, cleaning the house, and hanging up Chinese couplets on doors and windows to attract good luck.

“Just spending time to prioritize the fact that family is really important, and talking about our elders and the history we’ve been through that has brought us to where we are now,” said Chinsen, who has a 12-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. “It is important and is worth (it) to preserve our culture and values over schoolwork.”

School Committee Member Tina M. Cahill said her concern with adding the holiday is with kids falling behind on academics due to the pandemic.

“We want to try to keep our kids in school and not out of school,” Cahill said. “Our job is not just to comment on cultural and religious practices. It’s about education.”


Although Lunar New Year is not an official holiday, the calendar approved by the committee does include it among other major cultural and religious holidays. Staff is encouraged to schedule deadlines and activities around them.

Cahill said since in 2024 Lunar New Year falls on a Saturday, the issue of a holiday is moot-- for now.

Mayor Thomas Koch suggested the committee to revisit the idea.

“What I’d like to do is adopt the calendar as we have it,” Koch said during the meeting. “Why don’t we do a survey of the system, come up with some questions of all faiths and cultures and see what’s on people’s minds?”

Claire Law can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @claire_law_.