CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio (WJW)– Parents of elementary students in the Cuyahoga Falls City School District were surprised by a letter on social media about the decision to eliminate holiday parties starting next school year.
Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols said the announcement was drafted by all six of the district’s elementary school, which were discussing a change for the past five years.
“They have seen, as our community has become more and more diverse, more and more students who are not able to participate in parties that are associated with Christmas and Halloween and Valentine’s,” Nichols said.
The letter, from the principal of Richardson Elementary School read, “Students are required by law to be at school each day, yet we create an environment that is not inclusive of many whey we choose to celebrate specific holidays.”
But Nichols said the letter, which was sent out before he had the chance to read it, incorrectly left the impression the district was completely doing away with holiday parties.
Megan Jorz, a mother and member of the Price Elementary School PTO, said she also had no idea there would be such an announcement and after it appeared on social media, she started getting calls.
“Some parents started calling me, emailing me because I’m this year’s room parent coordinator on top of being in the PTO. So people were like whats going on? And I had no idea what they were talking about,”Jorz said.
Jorz, who supports the objective of being inclusive, said the holiday parties at her children’s school are funded by parents and already have no religious connotation.
“Our student body is a little under 300 students and of those 300 students, roughly four to five students are voluntarily excluded. Their parents will sign them out for the last hour of the day for those three days in a year and just take them home due to their own religious beliefs,” Jorz said.
Nichols said the principals were gathered to draft a second release on Wednesday to explain classroom parties and school-wide celebrations are not being completely eliminated. The parties are likely to take on a completely different look, Nichols said.
“For example, this last week with tomorrow being Valentine’s Day, our elementary celebrated kindness week, As opposed to an hour-long party on Friday at the end of the day, celebrating it across the entire week and celebrating kindness, which is a different focus,” Nichols said.
Alicia Coco, the president of Richardson Elementary School’s PTO, said she supports the change.
“I think if we can eliminate even one child feeling that they are not a part of the culture of Black Tiger pride, then that’s a positive thing,” Coco said. “I see it more as what are we gaining and what we are going to be able to do in the future, inclusion for everyone and parties We are still going to have parties, we are still going to have celebrations, probably more than the three we had before.”
The decision also prompted an online petition, created by a local father who opposes the change and said he believes the voices of the parents who object to the new policy should carry equal weight of those who feel they are excluded.
Nichols said he hopes the newest release will help parents understand the parties will not be eliminated.
“I think the first correspondence gave the impression that we were not doing any more classroom parties or school-wide celebrations, and that’s an incorrect perception,” Nichols said.