By Reagan Feld, Sadie Finn, and Alexis Larsen
High school seniors have put hours of dedication into their studies throughout high school, and are rewarded for their hard work with prom, which will be held this year on May 19. However, a substantial portion of the senior class may not have the opportunity to participate in this celebration. This year’s prom date is in the middle of Ramadan, the most important Muslim holiday.
Ramadan is a month long period of reflection. This holiday is set by the lunar calendar and usually moves up by 15 days every year; the dates are named in December. During Ramadan, Muslims fast and refrain from activities that would inhibit reflection. Religious customs such as praying at mosques and reading the Qur’an, the Islamic holy book, are emphasized.
“It is the holiest month of the year, where you take this time to cleanse yourself. You are supposed to avoid negative things. Being in that environment would defeat the purpose of Ramadan,” said senior Esraa Abdulgaader.
T.C. is one of the most culturally diverse high schools in Northern Virginia, which makes scheduling school events around various conflicts even more difficult.
In the past, other events have been scheduled with conflicts. The 2017 back-to-school night, for example, was originally scheduled on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Using the calendar to plan major events has been important. “We have to make sure that we are not putting our school play premiering on Easter” said Principal Peter Balas. “You cannot avoid every conflict; this place is enormous… there is always somebody doing something,” Balas said. It is inevitable that at some point in one’s high school career, events will conflict and students will have to decide their priorities.
The school system is very aware of the conflicts that make scheduling difficult. “ACPS has shared with us a calendar with which to check everything. They gave us that resource so that we can be aware of those things,” Balas said.
This calendar allows both the Senior Student Government Association (SGA), which picks the prom date and venue, and administrative team to make sure that school events such as school dances, back to school night, and School Board meetings do not conflict with religious or cultural holidays. “We have to try our best to plan concerts that people want to be involved with, not on a night when there is going to be an important hearing at city council,” Balas said.
Of course, many other events have the potential to conflict with prom, such as AP testing. May 19 was originally chosen because it is after the AP tests, which take place May 7-18. There is also a large crew regatta that conflicts with prom. “We cannot do it during APs, we cannot do it the week of graduation, so it was always a hard time to choose [the date],” said senior Molly Smith, a student in the Leadership class.
Because Ramadan’s date depends on the lunar calendar, the date changes yearly. “Last year, when we planned it, [Ramadan] was supposed to start on the 20 [of May], but now it starts on the 19th,” Smith said. The Senior Class SGA and the class sponsors have to pick the prom date over a year in advance to allow for time to schedule the venue, food, and entertainment.
Hopefully, this year’s situation can be used as a learning experience for future school years. “In the end, it is helping kids for next year, and the year after that to plan it,” Smith said.
The school has already started planning next year’s prom. Balas said, “2019 prom, I am already working with the class sponsors there to select those dates.” Precautions are already being taken to to ensure consideration for all students.
While the date of prom cannot be changed because of the set schedule, in the coming years the date will be set after extensive review.
The school is planning to meet with the students being affected. “I want to meet with some of the student leaders in the building who are part of the Muslim Student Association, I want to meet with students who started the online petition to one, make sure they know that they are heard, especially from me, and two, assure them for the future,” Balas said.
Ultimately, T.C. does not want to prevent any of its students from participating in school related events. “It is not an exact science, mistakes have been made, there will be more mistakes, because it is a huge place, but the best thing we can do is be honest about it, have conversation about it, and correct what we can when we can,” Balas said.