PATERSON, NJ – Facing criticism from an Italian-American organization, Paterson Public Schools has changed its plans and will close schools next Monday for Columbus Day.
On September 21, state-appointed schools superintendent Donnie Evans said classes would be held on October 10, Columbus Day, as well as on February 18, to make up for days lost to the flooding.
The North Jersey-based Italian American One Voice Coalition described that decision as part of the “continuing assaults on our great history and culture.’’
“This is the wrong message to give to our children, an embarrassment to Italian American students and an insult to all New Jersey Italians,” said the group’s president, Andre DiMino.
Evans also came under fire from William Connolly, a Republican running for Assembly in the 35th District, who accused the superintendent of “insensitivity to Italian-Americans.’’
After the complaints began to get coverage on radio and television news, Evans changed his mind. Even with the day off on Columbus Day, Paterson schools will still have enough days in its academic calendar for students to meet state requirements, said district spokeswoman Terry Corallo. But staff members will have to make up the day.
A major part of the Italian coalition’s complaint was that Paterson schools will be closed on November 7 for an Islamic holiday, Eid-al-Adha.
But Corallo said the off-day for the Muslim holiday had been decided back in August, prior to the flooding, and was unrelated to the decision regarding Columbus Day.