School District 27 staff are recommending that trustees approve a draft calendar for public feedback which removes not-in-session days commonly referred to as ‘fall break.’
Earlier this year the board tasked district staff with surveying the public regarding possible calendar changes in the district, which, for the last several years, has had the extra week of not in session days in an effort to save money.
In previous board meetings new Superintendent Chris van der Mark questioned whether the days off, which no other district in B.C. has, were still something they wanted to continue. In particular, van der Mark pointed out the hardships that not in session days cause for some families.
“For many students, our schools are (or should be) the best and safest place to be. Many rely on lunch programs and other services that don’t exist otherwise,” stated van der Mark and Dean Coder, director of instruction, in a finance and facilities and transportation committee meeting report. “The more we are open, the better.”
While the draft calendar removes the fall break, it does still allow for a two-week spring break.
Van der Mark and Coder provided information about the recent calendar survey results as well as considerations for the 2020-2021 School Calendar at a recent meeting.
They said as expected, responses from the survey varied across stakeholders, but some common themes emerged:
• Student learning should be the primary driver for the school calendar and that minutes added to the day do not meaningfully replace days in session.
Calendar decisions do not appear to have enhanced learning.
• There is a belief that the current schedule may improve mental health of students and employees, however, workforce recruitment, absenteeism and student learning survey feedback does not support this belief, states the report.
• Regardless of calendar, days out of session create challenges for parents such as childcare costs and availability, work and employment challenges and disruption and lack of continuity, especially for students and families with challenges, they noted.
van der Mark and Coder stated all employee groups indicated a strong desire for collaborative learning time (89 per cent) with the key consideration that any proposed changes simply bring the district in line with a “normal” service level across the province.
By reducing the not in session days, there is no disadvantage to district employees and they can reduce challenges some families may encounter.
“RCMP expressed a concern that more days out of session increase opportunities for youth to connect with others who are not engaged in the school system, we can be better aligned with other school districts (sports, extra-curricular) and communities and there is a possibility to build in collaborative learning for our adults which will enhance learning for students.”
District staff recommend that the Board of Education approve the draft calendar for public feedback at its board meeting Tuesday, Feb 25.