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Should law change to ensure Yom Kippur and Count Day are not on the same day again?

Conflict comes as pandemic is already changing the "culture" of count day.
Posted at 6:28 PM, Oct 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-04 18:28:00-04

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — Under state law, it happens on the first Wednesday in October every year. Count day. It is the day when schools record attendance that is used to determine state funding.

It has become tradition at some schools to have parties to encourage the highest attendance possible. The new Novi Community School District Superintendent Ben Mainka says he is taking a different approach.

“We believe that attendance every day is important and we don’t want to go to overboard on emphasizing one day over another,” said Superintendent Mainka.

Superintendent Mainka says in the era of COVID-19, he doesn’t want students to feel pressured to come to school sick. Plus, this year there is a major count day conflict.

“We will be working overnight,” said Shirah Eurich, as she worked at the Star Deli in Southfield.

It is the busiest time of the year at the Deli, as they help hundreds of Jewish families prepare to celebrate Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is considered the most important holiday in the Jewish faith. It is a time of atonement marked by a 25-hour fast and religious services. Often children don’t attend school so they can attend traditional religious and family gatherings.

Eurich, a mom of two young children, worries about how having count day on Yom Kippur will make students feel.

“The kids will feel left out,” she said.

“Schools heavily incentivize that day. There is a very big push. There are parties, special activities for students. It is fun. If Jewish students are counted out - it others them,” said Carolyn Normandin, Regional ADL Director.

Normandin says she wants to see the law changed so we don’t see this conflict again.

So what can schools do?

“The process that we have does allow us to handle this without putting anybody in a bind,” said Superintendent Mainka.

Mainka says people should know schools should not lose funding due to the conflict. Some school districts have chosen to close for the day, which allows them to reschedule count day. Other school districts, like Novi, will have to do extra paperwork to ensure absent students are counted.

Normandin says she hopes lawmakers consider whether there is a way to improve laws to not just count students, but make sure students feel counted.