Dressing down for Halloween at Hollister schools

Students at Hollister Dual Language Academy walk to school. Isabel Mendez (middle), 5, had planned to wear a My Little Pony Princess Celestia costume to class. Kyle Sanders (right), 5, planned to wear a cowboy costume.

Most students in the Hollister School District won’t be wearing cat ears and witch hats to school this year to celebrate Halloween. And they definitely won’t be parading through classrooms in capes and dresses.
“It was decided as a district from the superintendent and on down to the management staff that students wouldn’t be dressing up and we wouldn’t be having parades anymore,” said Kip Ward, principal of Ladd Lane School.
That’s because school administrators are concerned celebrating the holiday with big parades and costumes takes too much time away from valuable classroom instruction. Although it’s not a district policy or directive to halt Halloween celebrations, staff members made the decision to make Oct. 31 an in-service work day for teachers, meaning students won’t have class on the holiday. There aren’t district-sanctioned plans to celebrate with parades or costumes the day before or other days, either.
“It was just the disruptiveness of it that we thought it made more sense to try to stay away from it from an instructional standpoint,” said Gary McIntire, the district superintendent. “We felt that Halloween could best be handled outside of school hours.”
The holiday has become a headache for administrators who must address such concerns as the fact that not all families can afford the luxury of buying a costume. In prior years, staff members also spent time responding to concerns about the appropriateness of student outfits and lost valuable instruction time due to classroom parades, McIntire said.
“By the time every class has been through every class, you’ve lost a half day of instruction,” he said.
After parent Lisa Mendez, 31, heard about the district’s decision to have no school on the holiday, she had to explain to her 5-year-old daughter, Isabel, that the “My Little Pony” Princess Celestia costume they bought wouldn’t be making an appearance in her Hollister Dual Language Academy kindergarten classroom at the end of the month.
“I’m kind of bummed they don’t get to wear their costumes to school,” Mendez said. “I mean, that was just a fun part of Halloween.”
Mendez and her daughter picked out the costume with trick or treating in mind. But Mendez assumed other kids at her daughter’s school would see it, so she was surprised when she learned her daughter didn’t have school on the holiday.
Kristie Sanders, 43, was another parent of a kindergarten student at the school who had to explain to her son, Kyle, that he couldn’t wear his cowboy Halloween costume to class.
“This is not the first time that schools haven’t done Halloween,” Sanders said, as she walked her son to class Wednesday morning. “I don’t agree with it personally.”
The site principal, Monique Ruiz, was not surprised that her district is following a pattern she’s seen in other places. When Ruiz joined the district last year, she didn’t expect to see her students parading around in costumes in October. Ruiz, who previously lived in Southern California and Texas, had not seen the holiday celebrated at the local schools there.
Her school is offering students an opportunity to dress up after hours through a special “Festival de Otoño” – Spanish for Fall Festival – where students will have a chance to wander by booths, see a haunted house and wear costumes, if they want. The event will be held after school from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. this Friday in the campus’ Gecko Hall multipurpose room.
Cerra Vista School is holding a similar event the same day and will be offering games, a photo booth, and a crazy hair and tattoo station at their fall festival celebration held after school from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. It’s not a Halloween-themed celebration, but it is a chance to have a little autumn-themed fun.
Ruiz notes that this year the academy is going to focus more on celebrating Day of the Dead, an early November holiday that presents an alternative dress-up occasion for students. Students and teachers may choose to wear face paint or special clothing to celebrate, she said.
“We have families that don’t participate in Halloween at all due to family faith, and that’s why it’s nice to keep it as a choice thing,” Ruiz said. “We have families that won’t participate in the Day of the Dead for the same thing.”
The Day of the Dead celebration, however, fits closer to the school’s dual language curriculum since it’s a holiday observed in various forms in several Spanish-speaking countries.
“The reason we celebrate Day of the Dead is a deeper reason – to understand a different culture and the kids will all be in activities leading up to that,” she said.

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