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New York officials push de Blasio to make Lunar New Year a school holiday

A parade participant wears a traditional Chinese costume

A parade participant wears a traditional Chinese costume at the annual Chinese Lunar New Year Parade in NYC's Chinatown on February 22, 2015. Photo Credit: EPA / PETER FOLEY

A group of elected officials called on Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday to expedite his plans to add Lunar New Year to the school calendar.

Last week, the mayor and schools chancellor announced schools will close for Muslim holidays Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha during the 2015-2016 school year. The city's congressional delegation, members of the state Legislature and City Council sent a letter to de Blasio that urged him to add the Asian holiday as well.

The coaliation said Asians represent 15% of public school students and they shouldn't be forced to chose between their heritage and education.

"For far too long, Asian-American kids, including myself, grew up in this city feeling marginalized and 'un-American' for celebrating their culture," Assemb. Ron Kim (D-Flushing) said in a statement.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan), who helped to spearhead the initative with Kim, added absentee rates are as high as 80% in schools in his district, which includes Chinatown, during the lunar new year.

"Acting on the mayor’s pledge is critical so that students no longer have to choose between their most important cultural holiday and missing class, and to acknowledge the city's ongoing change," he said in a statement.

A de Blasio spokesman said the mayor is committed to making Lunar New Year a school holiday, but that he and the Department of Education are working on a way that would provide the day off without the district falling below the minimum 180 school days a year.

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