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WOODBRIDGE—Governor Ralph Northam today received the final report of the Task Force on Culturally Inclusive School Meals and Calendars after sharing a meal with task force members, educators, and students at Beville Middle School. The full report is available here.
“When schools acknowledge and celebrate diverse cultures, customs, and cuisines, it strengthens the sense of belonging in school communities,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “I am pleased with the task force’s work to identify ways to support healthy, compassionate learning environments for students.”
The task force was charged with identifying best practices to equip schools to adopt culturally and religiously inclusive calendars and serve meals which accommodate more dietary restrictions.
The task force recommends that schools seek public input, to ensure the religions and cultures of students are represented on academic calendars. Under these recommendations, schools will not require the recognition of all significant dates on the calendar, nor eliminate holidays currently recognized, but will encourage schools and institutions of higher education to provide opportunities for students to celebrate the cultural and religious days that are significant to their tradition.
“School divisions and higher education institutions have the opportunity to be more inclusive in the meals they serve and holidays they recognize to honor the diversity of Virginia’s students and educators,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “The task force has outlined recommendations to promote expanded meal offerings and recognize religious and cultural holidays that bear significant importance to many students in our classrooms, even if they may not currently be acknowledged on school calendars.”
Members of the task force included:
"All students, educators, and families should feel a sense of belonging in their schools and institutions of higher education,” said task force member Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky. “Religious and ethnic minorities often feel isolated when choosing how to observe a holiday that falls on a school day, especially if the school does not acknowledge the observances important to their traditions. By proactively and intentionally creating an inclusive academic calendar, PK-12 schools and higher education institutions can foster belonging and equity for all students, and allow students to more fully lean into their religious and cultural identities."
Later this fall, the task force will present their recommendations to the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, and will share their recommendations with superintendents, school nutrition directors, higher education representatives, school board members, and other relevant stakeholders.
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