School officials are considering changing next year’s school calendar to have school start one hour later on Wednesdays and give students two extra days off to allow for employee in-service.
Deputy superintendent John Blain presented these proposals to trustees at Wednesday’s business committee meeting and the committee is recommending the district consult with the public on the changes, which could result in education assistants losing one hour of work per week.
The province recently introduced new legislation that eliminates the standard school calendar, reduces the minimum amount of instruction time slightly and makes districts responsible for their own calendars.
Any changes to the school calendar require a 30-day public consultation and the calendar must be finished and submitted to the Education Ministry by the end of March.
The first proposal is to host two in-service days for all staff – on the first day of school, when students typically only attend class for about an hour, and the last day of semester one.
The second proposal is to start class one hour later on Wednesdays so that staff can meet and discuss teaching strategies, ways of dealing with individual students and any concerns they have at the school level.
Blain said it is hard for administrators and staff at a school to get together and senior staff believe allotting the time for these discussions and collaborative work will boost student achievement levels.
The third part of the school calendar proposal is having education assistants start an hour later on Wednesdays, saving the district about $400,000 annually, said Blain.
“Ultimately, best practice would be everybody’s there,” he said. “But I know we have to deal with almost a $5-million deficit coming up for next year.”
Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said he wants to collect feedback from staff on how useful the first in-service day – scheduled for Friday (Feb. 1) – is before determining if it is something trustees should support again next year.
Brennan is also concerned about the loss of income for support workers that the third part of the proposal would entail.
“We’re going to approve going out and talking to people about it,” he said.
Kelly Dunaway, general vice-president of CUPE Local 606, said having education assistants start work one hour later on Wednesdays translates into a loss of about 30 hours per year for one of the lowest-paid groups of employees in the district and it will cause considerable financial hardship for some members.
Excluding education assistants from the Wednesday meetings sends the message that they are not a valued part of the education team, he added.