Dear Baltimore County School Board Members:

On behalf of The Simon E. Sobeloff Law Society, we are writing to urge you to adopt the school calendar option for 2018-19 that maintains Baltimore County's tradition of keeping the schools and offices closed for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

As the Jewish law society of Maryland, we appreciate the legal complexities you face in making decisions regarding the closing of schools related to religious holidays.  We understand that the law does not permit you to close public schools solely in recognition of any particular religious faith.  Such decisions may only be made for operational or fiscal reasons.

We believe that the significant population of Jewish students, teachers, principals and staff members in the Baltimore County public schools that would be absent on those days justifies a decision to close the schools for Yom Kippur and the first day of Rosh Hashanah.  If the schools were to be open, thousands of Jewish teachers, principals, staff and students would stay home.  This would create significant costs to the school system – and ultimately the county taxpayers – to hire enough substitute teachers and other staff required to perform regular functions and to ensure student safety.  Assuming there are 1,500 to 2,000 Jewish teachers, the additional cost to the system would likely be between $300,000 and $500,000.  If enough substitutes cannot be found, what risks are being created in terms of proper supervision and safety for students?

We are also concerned about the impact of lost learning for those two days – both for the Jewish students who stay home, and the non-Jewish students who may be attending schools without adequate staffing.

As lawyers who are deeply invested in the success of our community and the future of our public schools, we believe that continuing to keep the schools closed for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is in the best operational and fiscal interests of the Baltimore County public schools.

Thank you for the consideration.

Nathan D. Willner, Esq.

Director of Communications

The Simon E. Sobeloff Law Society, Inc.

Maryland's Jewish Bar Association