The best and worst-kept secrets in

The annual “Hollywood Christmas” movie showcase, in which top-rated shows featured top-rated holiday movies — remains one of the most popular annual television offerings. In fact, NBC has now aired nearly 150 shows in the series, which introduced an increasingly popular staple of holiday TV.

For decades, Washington was a second home to Hollywood’s elite. Indeed, a visit to The Epcot Center is an essential stop for fans of any of the studio’s major motion pictures. Over the years, not all Washingtonians have been so enchanted by the many thrills of the summer blockbuster season.

A consistent complaint from school children to parents is that Catholic school students who attend the Archdiocese of Washington schools spend too much time preparing for classes on religion, including Catholic liturgy. When school is dismissed for the day, their classmates may be left with holiday cheer and teary-eyed family members. The kids typically spend fewer hours with their friends on one of the main driving holidays that are most important to them.

In fact, a poll conducted by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CICG) shows that almost two-thirds of parents choose a Catholic elementary school in Washington because of the Catholic religious education they receive there. Of those parents, more than nine in 10 said their most important quality for a child to have is that he/she feel connected to his/her community and is involved in a parish or religious community. The long-term results are very clear. In a city so strongly connected to Catholicism, which boasts some 70 Catholic churches, an education in these spaces significantly enhances students’ chances of getting jobs, participating in civic affairs and keeping their families together.

In some communities, school attendance is mandated by the federal government. Not so in most Washington, D.C., communities. American taxpayers, who foot much of the bill for schoolchildren across the country, should encourage the archdiocese to send all Catholic school students to school for a full day at Christmas instead of a partial day.

An estimated 70 percent of Catholic elementary school students in Washington, D.C., will spend a full school day at home during the traditional Dec. 25 Day After the Christmas Holiday.

Much of this holiday choice, students and parents say, is related to the profound impact of this short day on the kids. Kids told us that, “school takes too long because the first half of the day was so long, and when we came back from lunch, it was so late that we didn’t have anything to do.” Another parent added, “We pick the kids up at 2:15. At 4:15 we arrive and they just start going into their other stuff. It’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Another said, “At a school where we spend so much time with our friends, we shouldn’t have to spend so much time with books.” When his son and daughter asked why they should stay home during this holiday, he replied, “Your friends are at home. You’ll be alone.”

Our survey of more than a thousand Catholic parents, students and teachers reinforces this desire for more time with the family — and a sense of religious inclusion that is so strongly rooted in the Catholic faith. When asked, “What’s the most important part of your Catholic education?” almost nine in 10 said, “It’s being able to talk about religion with my friends.” Respondents indicated that the Catholic school day took up between 40 percent and 50 percent of their school day. Two-thirds said the morning class made up the bulk of the class time they spent with each other.

When surveyed, 73 percent of Catholic parents admitted to waiting at least 10 minutes to pick up their children, and an additional 27 percent acknowledged waiting 20 minutes or more, many for hours in some cases. Some of these parents are doctors, law enforcement officers, government workers, community leaders and many just care about spending time with their children.

When asked, why they didn’t send their kids to a Catholic school, one mother responded, “Because it took so long to pick them up.”

With a full day of school starting at 2:15 and stopping at 4:15, the opportunity to spend quality time with family over Christmas would simply make sense for all parents and students.

In recent years, Catholic schools have shifted focus toward more kindergarten and first grade, more science, math and health-focused curricula. We believe it is time to follow the lead of Holy Rosary School, the oldest Catholic elementary school in the District. Holy Rosary recently sent the majority of students to school instead of staying home.

This small change could significantly increase students’ sense of religious inclusion and community, along with an important component of the Catholic faith,

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