旁听席上，坐在第一排的两位发起人——东教堂山高中（East Chapel Hill High School）9年级学生方梓乔（Teresa Fang）、教堂山高中（Chapel Hill High School）9年级学生孙奕宽（Yikuan Sun）情不自禁欢呼出声，喜悦从蒙着口罩的笑脸上、眼睛的光芒中洋溢而出。
学区安排：2023年农历年初一是周日，学区设初二（1月23日，周一）为教师工作日（teacher work day）；2024年年初一是周六，学区设除夕（2月9日，周五）放假。规律大致是，初一或离初一最近的工作日放假。
Dear CHCCS Board of Education and calendar committee,
We hope you all are doing well. We are Teresa Fang from East Chapel Hill High School and Yikuan Sun from Chapel Hill High School.
Tomorrow is the lunar new year. We are very glad to share our happiness with our community, which is such a warm and inclusive place. By the way, there is a small mistake on the 2021-22 School Calendar. This year’s Chinese new year is on February 1 instead of February 12.
As two Asian Americans, we want to propose that lunar new year day be a school holiday. Our reasons are below:
Firstly, in Chapel Hill, Asians make up the second largest ethnicity in the population and for Asian cultures to be recognized would bring greater harmony. The lunar new year is celebrated across Asia and Southeast Asia in countries like China, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Mongolia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. We come from different countries, but we celebrate on the same day. People celebrate the lunar new year in their own ways, mixing their traditions and unique cultural identities. For Asian Americans in the US like us, we mix our traditions from the East and the West. According to the North Carolina Demographics as of 2020, Asians make up 14.9% of the town’s population after the 62.4% of white people. In our CHCCS schools, Asian students make up 13.9% of the k-12 student body. Being so widely-celebrated all over the world, lunar new year is a celebration for all Asian communities and for all Asian people, no matter how far apart they may be. This includes the 8000+ Asians in Chapel Hill.
Secondly, Chapel Hill is a multicultural community, provided it is a university town, having cultures originating from all over the world. As a big part of our community, Asian people have made great contributions in building our diversity. The LIGHTUP Festival was held to celebrate Chinese new year in the center of UNC in 2018 and 2019, emphasizing the magnitude that this celebration provides to everyone in Chapel Hill. Any curious people walking through Franklin Street that day would be lured and welcomed by the cultural music, flashy performances, and the smell of delicious food wafting through the joy-filled air. The majority of the booths were run by small organizations within our community, local restaurants, students, and academic and performing groups. People all over Chapel Hill were flocking to the festival. Mayor Pam Hemminger and other town councilors came as well, as part of the multicultural attraction joining different communities together. As students of CHCCS and part of the Asian community, we remember volunteering at stands there ourselves back in our middle school days. We received numerous positive comments and feedback about the festival soon afterwards; many people told us they would remember these moments dearly. The LIGHTUP festival was one of the most successful cultural events in our town. If not for the pandemic in the past two years, this festival would be well on its way today.
Thirdly, in our childhoods, we grew up through Glenwood and Seawell Elementary to Smith Middle School. Parents and teachers at the school would hold celebrations annually for the lunar new year at school. Especially throughout our elementary school years, teachers were open to teaching about different cultures and how to celebrate and appreciate them. These memories are very precious to us and made our Chapel Hill community a much warmer place to grow up in. So, we would like to share these precious memories to all kids in our community every year through celebrating this holiday.
Next, coincidentally, from our own experiences, lunar new year would unusually clash with severe weather in NC. Instead of deliberately making this a holiday off, we could also make it an inclement weather day. We know the district has specific days allowed for holidays and this would not disrupt the calendar plan.
Furthermore, commendably, our school district prioritizes equity above all else. However, the majority of Asian students have not seen them do anything about our situation. Last year during the peak of the Stop Asian Hate movements across the nation, other than seeing some announcements from the school district expressing their concerns about it, nothing was put into action for us. By implementing this day off for lunar new year, as Asian students ourselves, we hope to regain our trust and faith in the school district.
Lastly, considerably, due to the pandemic, the mental health of students have drastically decreased as compared to previous years. Especially in teens, the effects can be seen quite clearly: they are more prone to stress, mental breakdowns, and depression. According to data collected from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, over 50% of teens reported that the pandemic created problems in their mental health. In Chapel Hill, there were also many student incidents caused by mental health. As students, we have been aware of the district’s efforts to implement mental health days in the current school calendar. These are certainly helpful for keeping students safe, but we believe calling it a mental health day further emphasizes mental health and escape from these related issues. We’d rather the name be changed to celebrate a holiday to make students feel more happy. It would provide a more beneficial time of healing for everyone if this day could be taken off to spend time with family and friends, no matter if one celebrates lunar new year or not. Therefore, a day off on lunar new year would be helpful not only to students’ cultures, but also emotional well-being.
No matter what community one may be a part of, taking the lunar new year off from school would have its benefits for everyone. Chapel Hill is a diverse town and this culture has helped elevate the interconnectedness of its people, shaping the way we live. It is a special occasion for celebrating, connecting with family and friends, and a time of healing and restoration. This proposal aims to make a change in the calendars of future school years. Along with the rest of the Asian community in Chapel Hill, we would appreciate it very much if this could be considered.
Thank you for your attention!
Teresa and Yikuan