Students get extra days off next school year

Students will get an extra three days off and teachers will see their summer breaks cut short by two days, according to a revised school calendar proposed for 2014-15.

In previous years, teachers spent up to a week doing professional development at the end of August in preparation for the term ahead, but the Okanagan Skaha School District offered to put those days back into the school calendar next year.

That change would have lengthened school days by eight minutes to make up for the lost instructional time, but it also generated concerns from parents and support staff during consultations earlier this year.

“The one thing I am cognizant about is parents’ frustration at having to find more daycare during those days and our (Canadian Union of Public Employees) staff losing days in the school calendar,” Trustee Shelley Clarke said at Monday’s school board meeting.

She instead offered a compromise that would see three pro-D days be added to the school calendar, and two other non-instructional days taken in August. That will require adding four minutes to school days to make up for lost time.

Clarke’s plan won the unanimous support of the board. However, it still needs approval from the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union, because the summer days fall outside of members’ contracts.

OSTU president Leslea Woodward, said after the meeting, she expects members will accept the proposal. Trustee Tracy St. Claire, who supported Clarke’s motion, said she was struck by “the number of concerns from parents that adding minutes to the calendar wouldn’t make up for the lost days,” but felt it worthwhile to give teachers the opportunity to try continuous professional development throughout the year.

Clarke also pointed out the three non-instructional days during the school year could represent “a great opportunity for our CUPE members to get some professional development.”

Trustee Linda Van Alphen noted, however, that such opportunities would be “tied to the budget process.”

District staff will now prepare a report on the revamped calendar’s expected financial impact on CUPE employees, along with suggestions for training and work opportunities.

CUPE unit chair Alison Reigh was at Monday’s meeting and thanked the board for the compromise solution.

The draft calendar has schools opening on Sept. 2. Christmas break would run from Dec. 22 to Jan. 4, followed by a two-week spring break March 16-29. The last day of school would be June 25.

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