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Status quo for school calendar for next year

Even with more latitude for school districts to set a non-traditional calendar, it doesn’t appear teachers’ contracts will allow for much change.

In November, the B.C. government changed regulations that dictated a September-to-June school year and now instead specify only a minimum number of required instructional hours, which is set at 878 hours for Grades 1-7 and 952 hours for Grades 8-12.

That switch opened up the possibility of year-round instruction, but change is not imminent here.

In the Okanagan Skaha School District, the teachers’ contract specifies they can only work a maximum of 195 days in a school year, which must start the first Tuesday after Labour Day and conclude in late June.

It also mandates that elementary teachers’ days are limited to a maximum of six instructional hours, which increases to six hours and five minutes in middle school and six hours and 30 minutes in high school.

Assistant superintendent Dave Burgoyne told a school board committee meeting on Tuesday that if the district wanted to move to a non-traditional calendar, the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union would first have to give the OK.

Burgoyne said he’s had preliminary discussions with the union and the “there might be some interest” in a minor tweak that could see the school year start in late August by scattering professional development days throughout the year rather than bunching them at the end of the summer.

However, Burgoyne said that idea “wasn’t very well-received” by CUPE, the union that represents support staff, who are laid off for the summer and could lose a week’s worth of employment insurance.

Such changes may be the subject of further discussion, said Burgoyne, “but, in general what we’re looking at for next year, it will be a standard school calendar.”

The district will also have to tackle the issue of what will be considered board-approved learning activities that will count towards the total number of hours required for a school year.

Burgoyne said things like field trips to teach part of the curriculum and parent-teacher interview ought to be included, but other things, like collaboration time for teachers, also merit discussion.

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