Tips for Supporting Muslim Students During Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr

Maine is home to many Muslim families, and the Maine Department of Education would like to provide some general information about Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr to schools, so they can support their schools’ Muslim community members as they enjoy this very special time of year.

Ramadan is a month-long fast observed by Muslims around the world. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. To wish someone a happy Ramadan, you can say “Ramadan Kareem” or “Ramadan Mubarak.”

This year, in the United States Ramadan will start around May 5th and end around June 4th. The official beginning and end of the month of Ramadan will not be announced until the sighting of the new moon. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan happens about 11 days earlier each year.

During Ramadan, most Muslims fast (i.e., consume no food or water) from dawn to dusk. Many Muslims also pray more frequently and make special efforts to be kind, generous, and compassionate. This is a joyous time of year, and each Iftar (post-sunset meal to break the fast) is a celebrated opportunity to gather with friends and family. Muslims may also wake before dawn to eat Suhoor (a pre-dawn meal), which helps give them energy to endure the day’s fast. (Iftar and Suhoor timings can be found here.) For some Muslims, the typical patterns of sleep are shifted so that more waking hours occur during the night, which can make it difficult to wake up early and stay alert during the day.

Typically, very young children do not fast or may fast only part of the day. Some Muslims may not fast when they are travelling, ill, pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating. In these cases, fasting days can be made up for at a later time. Elderly and chronically ill people who are not well enough to fast may give charitably instead.

After Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr (the festival of breaking the fast) is a three-day celebration with feasts and gatherings of families. This is an extremely important and cheerful time of year for Muslims, and students will likely be absent for all or part of the three days. Children often receive a new outfit or a small amount of money as a gift from their family for the holiday. To wish someone a happy Eid, you can say, “Eid Saeed” or “Eid Mubarak.”

Here are a few tips for supporting students during Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr.

  1. Learn about Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr.

There are many resources available online that can help you understand how and why Ramadan is observed. Keep in mind that practices may vary depending on culture, so your students and their families are the best sources of information about their Ramadan traditions. Here are a couple of articles that give a general overview.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/religion/what-ramadan-six-things-know-about-muslim-holy-month-n586426

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/ramadan

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Eid-al-Fitr

  1. Encourage cultural sensitivity for all school community members.

Fasting can have many physical and mental effects, such as fatigue, lack of concentration, and irritability. For your students, your understanding and support can help ensure that they continue to learn and make the most out of their time at school while fasting. Teachers, school nurses, sports coaches, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, and all other staff who interact with students will need to know how fasting can affect students.

Talking with staff and students about Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr helps encourage an atmosphere of cultural awareness and sensitivity for the whole school community. Sensitivity towards fasting students includes avoiding consuming food and beverages in front of them whenever possible. Consider holding any celebrations that include food, such as awards banquets, after Iftar (sunset).

  1. Ask students and their families how you can best support them.

Some schools may choose to offer a place for students to go during lunchtime, alternative options for physical education, or dedicated prayer spaces. Schools may also avoid scheduling assessments or other required activities during Eid-al-Fitr, when students are likely to be absent. The best way to ensure that your school is a supportive, culturally-aware learning environment is to involve students, families, and other community members in planning and policy creation. Check out these two articles for some practical ideas that may benefit fasting students.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/column-teachers-can-support-students-ramadan

http://www.isre.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Schools-Guide-to-Ramadan-2.pdf

  1. Have a clear, well-communicated policy on tardies and absences.

Maine’s statute on excused absences is Title 20-A, Section §3272. It states that an absence is excused when it is for “observance of a recognized religious holiday when the observance is required during the regular school day and the absence has prior approval.” Fasting during Ramadan is a required religious observance, and the physical and mental demands of fasting may cause students’ tardies and absences to increase. Eid-al-Fitr celebrations are also religious observances. Districts will need to share clear expectations for attendance with students and families. It is highly recommended to develop these expectations in collaboration with your community members, recognizing that interpretation and translation may be necessary to ensure meaningful communication.

 

Administrative Letter: Clarification Concerning Local School Bus Purchase and Bid

Administrative Letter: #24
Policy Code: EEAEB
To: Public School Administrators, Business Managers, Transportation Directors, and School Bus Vendors
Date: 26 March 2019
Subject: Clarification Concerning Local and State School Bus Bid and Purchase

To assist and support school districts in their diligent work to purchase school buses, the Maine Department of Education is providing clarification concerning the process for districts to bid and purchase school buses.

The information in this letter has been reviewed and confirmed by our legal team in the Office of the Attorney General.

For a school bus purchase to be eligible for State subsidy, per 20-A M.R.S. § 5401(15) and § 5402, the school administrative unit (SAU) must:

(1) purchase the bus from the bidder selected through the State of Maine Division of Procurement school bus bid Request for Quotations (RFQ) for bus Type and capacity or
(2) upon request, provide to the Department documentation that demonstrates the purchase was the result of a competitive bidding process conducted by the SAU following, 20-A M.R.S § 5402 bid procedures.

For school buses purchased by a SAU when the SAU is not seeking subsidy, the SAU must still engage in competitive bidding, as outlined above.

Vendors are welcome to register with, and submit school bus bids through, the Maine Division of Procurement’s Request for Quotations (RFQ). During an open bid, vendors may not contact the Maine Department of Education. Questions that vendors receive about Maine Department of Education transportation programs, policies, and procedures from SAUs or citizens are to be redirected to the state agency with subject authority, e.g., Maine Division of Procurement or Maine Department of Education.

SAU use of the Maine Department of Education’s School Bus Bid and Purchase System (SBBPS) is voluntary.  SAUs are encouraged to contact Pat Hinckley at 207-624-6886 or pat.hinckley@maine.gov with any questions about the SBBPS, transportation programs, or policy questions.

FY2018/2019 Tribal Clean Diesel Funding Request for Applications (RFA) Changes; Deadline is April 3

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has combined fiscal year 2018 and 2019 Clean Diesel Grant funding into one Request for Applications (RFA). An additional $2.0 million in grant funding has been added to the already open FY18 Tribal RFA for a total of $4.0 million available. Under this amended grant competition, each applicant may request up to $800,000 in federal funding, and EPA is expecting to award between 5 and 12 grants. The deadline for applications is Wednesday, April 3, 2019.

Please visit the Clean Diesel Tribal Grants Website for the RFA and Supporting Documents (www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/clean-diesel-tribal-grants)

Tribal Applicants Click Here If Interested in Learning More About the VW Mitigation Trust DERA Option.

Priority – Priority is given to projects that achieve significant reduction in diesel emissions and exposure in areas designated as having poor air quality, and in areas receiving a disproportionate quantity of air pollution from diesel fleets.

Eligibility – Tribal governments (or intertribal consortiums) and Alaskan Native Villages, which have jurisdiction over transportation or air quality, are eligible to apply for Tribal Clean Diesel grants.

Use of Funding – Eligible diesel vehicles, engines and equipment may include:

  •  School buses
  •  Class 5 – Class 8 heavy-duty highway vehicles
  •  Locomotive engines
  •  Marine engines
  •  Nonroad engines, equipment or vehicles used in construction, handling of cargo (including at ports or airports), agriculture, mining or energy production (including stationary generators and pumps).

Further questions can be send to Pat Hinckley, Maine DOE Transportation and Facilities Administrator at pat.hinckley@maine.gov.

National Congress on School Transportation Writing Committees Seeking Input

The National Congress on School Transportation (NCST) is accepting change requests from any interested party on the National School Transportation Specifications and Procedures.

All change requests must be made on the NCST 2020 Change Request Form: The form and instructions are located on the NCST website. 

The deadline for submission of change requests is March 31, 2019.  All requests must be submitted by that date in accordance with the form instructions to allow the NCST Writing Committees time to review and properly research the proposals before the 2020 Congress.

Under the Congress’ procedures, the Writing Committee Chairs must notify all persons submitting change requests for the status of their respective requests following the committees’ deliberations and decisions.  This feedback to submitters must occur well prior to the on-site Congress.

The job of researching suggested changes to the National School Transportation Specifications and Procedures is performed by the NCST Writing Committees.  Questions about the NCST 2020 Change Request Form and submittals may be addressed to Patrick McManamon at patrick.mcmanamon@vermont.gov .

For information about Maine school transportation, please contact Pat Hinckley, Transportation and Facilities Administrator, at pat.hinckley@maine.org .

School Safety and Security Bulletin: Planning for those with Access and Functional Needs

Throughout the 2018- 2019 school year, the Maine Department of Education, State Fire Marshal’s Office, Department of Health and Human Services, Maine State Police, Maine Sheriffs Association, Maine Chiefs of Police Association, and the Maine Emergency Management Agency will provide tips and resource information to Maine schools to help provide some guidance for identifying signs and preventing school violence.

School Safety and Security Bulletin  – February 2019

Further questions and inquiries can be send to Pat Hinckley, Maine DOE Transportation and Facilities Administrator at pat.hinckley@maine.gov.