Alexandra Cheney of The Record reports: Shavuos celebrates the day God gave the Torah to Moshe at Har Sinai. This year, it coincides with the annual school budget voting date. In July, the East Ramapo Central School District sent a change-of-date request to the state commissioner of education, asking that the election be moved up one week, from May 18 to May 11.
In a community that is largely composed of Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, twice the amount of children attend private and religious schools as opposed to public. And although the polls would be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on May 18, observant Jews would be unable to vote after sundown, cutting nearly three hours off their polling time.
More than four months have passed since the request was filed. Tom Dunn, a spokesman for the Education Department, said Education Commissioner David Steiner is looking into the matter. He couldn’t provide any specifics as to when it might be resolved.
“I don’t see this as a big deal,” East Ramapo Superintendent of Schools Ira Oustatcher said of the request. “We will be curtailed by one week.”
Even though East Ramapo is the sole petitioner to change the election date, the commissioner’s decision could affect the whole state – roughly 750 districts, according to Sandy Cokeley, the director of community relations for the Pearl River school district.
“This will result in many districts having to make a lot of adjustments,” Cokeley said.
Dunn could not confirm whether or not the commissioner’s ruling would affect the entire state.
If statewide, however, the dates for school board candidate nominating petitions, property-tax report card, and the budget hearings, mailings and notices would all have to be moved up in order to vote by May 11.
“The date is the same everywhere in the state,” said Steve White, an East Ramapo parent and frequent critic of the school board. “They have a calendar that no one really understands and every year they make a big stink about it.”
If the request is denied by Steiner, a portion of East Ramapo voters would be unable to go to the polls.
“Two-thirds of the district are religious Orthodox Jews that will be observing the holiday,” Oustatcher said. “We would like an alternative and we asked for it.”