PHOENIXVILLE — Elementary school students in the Phoenixville Area School District will be celebrating a fall theme day as opposed to Halloween-centric events this year and Superintendent Alan Fegley explained why at Thursday night’s school board meeting.
Fegley said the announcement was made in the elementary school student “package” from the district in August, but he explained the district’s decision to move away from Halloween fully at the meeting.
According to Fegley, a number of the elementary schools’ principals came to him with their concerns regarding Halloween celebrations for Oct. 31.
“I approved the change for a fall-themed activity for a number of reasons,” Fegley said.
On the days scheduled for Halloween activities in the past, Fegley said the absentee rate in the elementary schools spiked from its regular 4 percent to 9 percent.
Although alternate activities were set up for students that were not allowed to celebrate Halloween for various reasons by their parents or guardians, Fegley said absenteeism still prevailed.
Fegley said the absentee rate was the “initial, overriding” reason for the district-wide change, but he named several others that factored in.
“There was unhealthy competition for the costumes and treats that were being provided,” Fegley said. “I’m a competitive person, don’t get me wrong. But when it’s sitting there and making other students not feel good because they can’t afford the costume or can’t have it made, that’s something that’s just something the district just thought was not worth having to go through.”
Additionally, with the costumes and despite warnings from the school, children continued to bring in costume weapons in violation of the school’s weapons policy.
Finally, the district wanted to “honor the diverse background” of its students and open up the celebration to fall-themed events rather than Halloween because of the “controversy surrounding the religious connotations of Halloween.”
Halloween itself will not be celebrated, but that will not make Oct. 31 a regular, open books, pencil ups school day.
“Each elementary class will continue to have a fall festival,” Fegley said. “It will include a celebration at the end of the day...we’re continuing the tradition.”
The school board’s vice president, Jan Potts, said the change won’t be very severe.
“Historically, at the Schuylkill (Elementary) they have done a historical character parade,” she said.
Students reportedly dress up and parade around the school as their favorite or unique characters from history and have done so for years instead of celebrating Halloween, according to Potts.
Such a celebration like that would still be permitted under the district’s new policy, Fegley said.
Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.
This story was originally published on www.pottsmerc.com.