NAPLES — It was a familiar plea to the Collier County School Board.
During a special School Board workshop Thursday, several members of the Jewish community asked the district to reschedule four high school football games set to be played on Sept. 17.
Yom Kippur — the holiest day of the Jewish year — falls on Sept. 18.
Since Jewish holidays go from sunset to sunset, the holiday of Yom Kippur begins with the ritual of Kol Nidre on the night of Friday, Sept. 17.
“That’s why the games were getting adjusted in Lee County,” said Rabbi Adam Miller, of Temple Shalom, after the meeting.
Miller told board members he understands Collier County does not have a large enough Jewish population to warrant closing schools on the Jewish holidays but he would like schools to take into consideration students who would be celebrating.
“I would ask that the district ask schools not to administer tests or have a project due on those dates,” he said during the meeting.
In Collier County, games scheduled for Friday, Sept. 17 include Palmetto Ridge at Barron Collier, Naples at Gulf Coast, Immokalee at Lely, and Gateway Charter at Golden Gate.
In recent years, the Lee County School District has recognized either Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur out of deference to the Jewish community.
This year, Yom Kippur falls on a Saturday, and Rosh Hashanah falls on Sept. 9, a Thursday.
Lee County is scheduled to play three games on Thursday, Sept. 16, instead of Friday.
Superintendent Dennis Thompson said the district does accommodate those students and staff members who need to miss school for religious purposes. He said students are given an excused absence and are allowed to make up all work, including tests.
But he argued against moving the football games, saying in his experience, holding a football game on Thursday night means no work at school from tired students and staff on Fridays.
School Board Chairwoman Kathleen Curatolo said Thompson’s reluctance was disconcerting because Lee County had changed its policy.
Thompson said there are 62 religious holidays for the different religions in the Collier County School District. Making an exception for one religion would mean making an exception for all, he said.
Collier County students have Good Friday, a Christian holiday, and Passover, a Jewish holiday, which both begin on Friday, April 22, off according to the district’s 2010-11 calendar.
Thompson said the district has added a Jewish community member to the district’s calendar committee to address some of the concerns over the holidays.
The issue hits home for Barron Collier High School’s football team, said Head Coach Mark Ivey.
“We have a coach on staff that is Jewish,” Ivey said.
Coach Michael Wexler, who coaches Barron Collier’s running backs, had to miss a game last year because it took place during Rosh Hashanah.
Irv Povlow, president of the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island, said the community was asking only for a consideration of one Friday night, not every holiday that falls within the school calendar year. Povlow said if the superintendent was worried about tired students and staff on Friday, perhaps the games could be moved to Saturday.
“We feel insulted when schools plan major tests on major holidays,” he said. “We just want to open up discussion.”
School Board Vice Chairwoman Julie Sprague agreed that more discussion was needed and asked that the item be placed on the Aug. 19 school board agenda.
Miller said the board’s decision was a step in the right direction.
“I was actually encouraged today, that the board members seemed very interested in addressing this issue and have made it a priority to put it on the agenda going forward,” said Miller, who took over as rabbi of Temple Shalom this summer.