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Effort Underway to Allow Schools to Close for Lunar New Year

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TWC News: Effort Underway to Allow Schools to Close for Lunar New Year
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With the Lunar New Year expected to be celebrated across the city Friday, a new effort is underway to allow public schools to close to observe the holiday. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

In Chinatown in Manhattan, preparations are underway for Lunar New Year celebrations. Many children are expected to stay home from school in order to observe the holiday with their families.

Jennifer Fung has two kids who are students in the neighborhood. She said the schools should have an option to close instead of marking kids absent.

"Especially for schools in Chinatown where 70, 80 percent of them are absent on Chinese New Year day because they're home celebrating."

The state is now looking to step in. A bill has been introduced that would give schools the option of canceling classes if the majority of their student body will be absent due to a religious observance.

"We should not force families to choose between celebrating a holiday of great cultural importance and their children's learning time at school," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

According to the latest census data, Asian-Americans represent the fastest-growing ethnic community in the city.

"Asian-Americans are as much a part of this city, of this state and this country as any other group," said Assemblyman Ron Kim of Queens. "Asian-Americans are one of the fastest-growing communities in the entire country, making up almost 14 percent of the entire city of New York."

While this bill is aimed at those who celebrate the Lunar New Year, it's written broadly enough for other religious observances, including the Hindu celebration of Diwali.

"What this reflects is that New York City is ever changing, and today the Asian-American community in New York is an enormous and fundamental part of who we are," said state Senator Daniel Squadron, whose district covers parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The bill has been introduced in the state Senate many times in previous sessions, only to get bottled up in committee. The Assembly on the other hand, plans to pass the bill Monday.

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