SHREWSBURY – A Shrewsbury resident is advocating for students to receive a day off for Diwali.
Anand Sharma has two kids who attend Shrewsbury Public Schools – Jiya, who is a freshman, and Arvin, who is in fourth grade.
If Shrewsbury students got the holiday off, it would allow those who do observe the holiday to celebrate and spend time with their families, he said.
Sharma added that it would acknowledge the importance of the holiday.
“It will also bring different groups together and a new generation will grow up accepting it as one of their own,” he said.
As part of the Diwali celebration, Sharma said people decorate their houses, prepare elaborate meals and exchange desserts with family and friends.
“This festival represents the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil. This day God Rama returned home after 14 years of exile while he destroyed demons,” Sharma said.
He said the holiday is an annual “homecoming and bonding period” for families and communities.
According to Shrewsbury’s district profile with the Massachusetts Department of Education, 34.5% of students in the district identify as Asian in the 2022-2023 school year. That’s an increase from 11.2% in the 2009-2010 school year.
According to Sharma, many of these students are of Indian descent.
The Indian population is growing at a “very fast pace” in Shrewsbury, Sharma said, adding that the community contributes to the town’s prosperity and development.
Indeed, the 2020 census indicated that the town was more diverse than it was in 2010. The largest racial subgroup that saw an increase was the number of residents who identify as Asian, which now represented 24.6% of the town’s population.
Sharma said parents teach their kids about the Diwali traditions in India, but in the United States, children are not as involved with the celebration.
“There is no fun for them and they don’t even look excited celebrating this festival. It just becomes one of the days like any other,” Sharma said.
School Committee Chair Lynsey Heffernan said that feedback from parents regarding holiday days off is “something the committee takes under consideration each year.”
“The School Committee always appreciates when members of the parent community reach out to advocate for issues that are important to them, their families and their children,” she said.