The decision to host football games and homecoming events on Yom Kippur last week many people of Jewish faith in the community.
“It was a tremendous oversight,” said Terry Koehne, the community relations director for the .
“We deeply regret it,” Koehne said. “It was a scheduling mistake.”
Yom Kippur, or “The Day of Atonement,” is the holiest day of the year for Jews. It is one of the most culturally significant observances in Judaism and one that even secular Jews usually will observe as well.
While the East Bay Athletic League sets the game schedule, individual schools schedule homecoming celebrations.
The schools in the district are provided with a calendar to use in school planning that includes major religious observances to avoid such situations, but planned its homecoming celebrations for with California High, which was scheduled on Yom Kippur.
Although an error in a calendar provided to the district by the Jewish Community Relations Council, mistakenly showed the incorrect date for Yom Kippur this year, and contributed to the oversight, Koehne firmly stressed that does not excuse the district and school’s error.
Monte Vista principal Janet Terranova was extremely upset when she realized the oversight, says Koehne.
“She felt terrible — we all did,” he said.
Koehne said the scheduling conflict was originally brought to the school district’s attention on Sept. 2, when Rabbi Dan Goldblatt of in Danville contacted him.
Although school and district officials worked to see if the schedule could be reworked, ultimately they concluded it “was so late in the game” that it wasn’t feasible.
Terranova wanted to apologize to the Monte Vista High community and sent a letter to parents to explain the situation.
Koehne feels the mistake is unfortunate, especially because they “work very hard” to consider major religious holidays when scheduling large school events.
The annual Primo’s Run for Education was also scheduled last weekend. Coupled with the school district’s scheduling oversight, Koehne said discussions took place within the district and educational foundation to ensure that such religious observances are “consistently on the radar” in the future.
Local residents have expressed differing views about whether the school district should manage its schedule around religious holidays.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of religion by prohibiting government (including public schools) from endorsing any particular religious point of view.
While some community members expressed that they feel it is unrealistic to expect the district to schedule around religious observances, as well as unconstitutional, those upset with the Yom Kippur scheduling mistake felt the oversight was “inconsiderate” and “offensive,” and makes Jewish families feel marginalized for observing their religion.
Koehne says that is not the message the school district wants to send to local families.
“We don’t want to alienate anyone in the community.”