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Tampa Tribune – December 15,  2005

Florida school OKs Muslim holiday

Michelle Sager

TAMPA - Terrace Community School has became the first public school in Hillsborough County to give students a day off for the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

During their monthly meeting Wednesday, board members for the charter school approved the 2006-07 school calendar, which includes a day off for the Eid al-Fitr holiday. About 5 percent of the school's 352 students are Muslim.

Principal Gary Hocevar said he received little reaction.

"I received one positive feedback and one negative feedback. Neither were parents," he told board members. "I was a bit surprised, but I guess we've done our homework and we're doing the right thing."

The proposal to establish the holiday at the school at the Museum of Science & Industry on East Fowler Avenue came after controversy erupted in the school district.

Last month, the Hillsborough County School Board decided to eliminate all days off coinciding with religious holidays except Christmas, which falls during winter break. The move came after a group of Muslims asked for a day off for Eid al-Fitr.

After receiving thousands of e-mail messages and phone calls and much national media attention, the board reversed that decision but still did not add a day off for the Muslim holiday.

Charter schools operate as public schools but without many district restrictions. They are free to create their own calendar, but most operate on the district's schedule to accommodate school services and parents who also have children in other schools.

The school's calendar also includes days off for Yom Kippur and Good Friday.