LOS LUNAS — A recent email sent to School of Dreams Academy staff regarding Halloween has sparked a lot of discussion and mixed feelings.

In mid-October, SODA Superintendent Mike Ogas sent an email to all SODA staff members announcing the school would not be celebrating the upcoming Halloween holiday.

“Knowing there are several avenues, outside of school, already in place to celebrate Halloween, we feel it is best that participation be up to individual families,” Ogas wrote in the email.

He further stated they instead intend to have events that are seasonally oriented with the goal of being more inclusive of the entire SODA community.

“For example, we are planning a Fall Festival on Dec. 1 that will include a bonfire, food, games, and an opportunity for our entire SODA community to celebrate school, each other and have fun,” Ogas wrote in the email. “We are also looking at similar events to celebrate winter and spring. I hope this clarifies how we plan to approach school events and holidays throughout the year.”

The message made its way to Facebook shortly afterward, generating lots of conversation on public Valencia County discussion groups.

Jamie Armer, a parent of a fifth and seventh-grader who attend SODA, said no official notice was or has been sent out regarding this decision and she and many other parents only found out through Facebook.

“There’s been absolutely no communication whatsoever. There wasn’t a call, a note sent home or anything like that. There was just the thing we saw on Facebook,” said Armer. “So I asked my kids, ‘Is this true?’ and they said it was. They weren’t happy about it. They and many other students were really looking forward to it.”

Armer said she was frustrated to hear this was decided so close to Halloween after her children had already put together costumes and teachers had planned celebrations.

“If this is the school’s policy, it needs to be outlined at the beginning of the school year. This came out of nowhere with little explanation,” she said.

Ogas said he was going to send something out to parents, but then he found out they already had heard, presumably through Facebook or word-of-mouth.

“People are just posting online and sharing anecdotal information, but there’s nothing official, so I think it’s just a little confusing for everybody,” said Armer.

Ogas said the decision wasn’t meant to exclude parents, as the topic was brought up at a parent teacher committee meeting. After discussing the idea further with administration and informing the governing council, he ultimately made the decision to try out this new approach.

“I’d been hearing where many schools and districts around the country were opting for different ways of holding nice events and celebrations that were basically more inclusive to everybody in their school community,” said Ogas. “We have a diverse population of students and families. I don’t know if they all believe the same thing or do the same kinds of things. We weren’t (trying) to upset anybody; we just thought we’d give it a try this way.”

Both parents and Ogas seem to be unclear if this decision will apply to other holidays or just Halloween. Ogas said the decision to not celebrate Halloween specifically this year was because, “It was the only one that came up. It just happened to be the Halloween season.”

When asked if any other holidays would fall under this practice, Ogas said he wants to first hear what kind of parent feedback they receive.

“Honestly, I’m up for suggestions from the parents in the community. We’re always willing to listen and to try to see what might be best for our community,” he said. “This was just one try at doing something to foster more inclusionary kinds of activities.

“If we need to make some tweaks to it for the next one, or we need to consider and have a discussion about it, I’m happy to do that.”

To provide feedback, Ogas urged parents to attend their next PTC meeting at 3:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 27, in room 31-B. The meeting will also be streamed on Zoom.

“I think that most holidays have some sort of cultural significance or religious background, so I can understand how that might be a little hard to navigate,” said Armer. “But when I think about things he said, like ‘There’s things outside of school that families can do to celebrate.’ I don’t think that’s a fair representation of a student body.

“There’s a lot of kids who come from single-parent homes, and I think that there’s a lot of income instability within our community, so to assume that these kids have something to do outside of school might not be the right decision because the celebrations within school might have been the only thing that they had.”

Armer said holidays are also a good opportunity to educate children on the cultures around them and the historical and cultural significance of the occasion, but opting for different materials or activities has always been an option for students.

“We’ve always accommodated that before,” she said. “Plus, I feel like kids are always going to want to talk about the thing that you don’t want them to talk about. So if you ban Halloween, that’s the only thing that those kids are going to think about, so you might as well embrace it and talk about how Halloween originated, the mythology and the various cultures it overlaps. I think that that would be a really cool thing to learn about in school.”

Armer said she is interested to see if SODA adopts similar practices for other holidays or if this was just a reactionary response to Halloween in particular.

“If it turns out it was only Halloween, that might be something that’s a little more concerning that we would want to get some more answers about,” she said.

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Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.