Glendale Unified students and teachers will have next April 24 off in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, following an agreement signed by school officials and the teachers union this week.
Thousands of students of Armenian descent typically skip class on April 24 to participate in commemoration events, but the high truancy rates can decrease the school district's funding, which is tied to attendance.
For years, parents, teachers and school officials have been discussing making April 24 a non-work day, and finally next school year the day off will be official.
The agreement reached on Wednesday, which lasts for a year, extends the school year by three days, but makes Thanksgiving Break a week-long affair and April 24 a non-instructional day.
The Armenian community hosts several events annually to commemorate the genocide, including a march to the Turkish Embassy, and many students take off to attend. Teachers also often request the day off.
Berdj Karapetian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee, Glendale chapter, applauded the change in a statement Thursday.
"We commend the Glendale Unified School District and the Glendale Teachers Assn. on their willingness to support the desire of their students to properly pay tribute to the victims of the Armenian Genocide without having to be absent from classes," Karapetian said.
The genocide has never been officially recognized by the U.S. government over fears of upsetting Turkey, a military ally in the Middle East, despite repeated recognition attempts in Congress spearheaded by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank).
Roughly 1.5 million Armenians were massacred by Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1918, but Turkey, the governmental descendant of the Ottoman Empire, staunchly denies that what happened was genocide.
During the campaign this spring for three school board seats, all candidates said they supported making April 24 a non-instructional day to allow the Armenian community to freely commemorate the tragedy.
"We have always wanted to have April 24 as a non-work day," said Tami Carlson, president of the teacher's union. "We're very pleased."