School district rearranges calendar for PD days

Students will get an extra three days off next year, but school support workers are “disappointed” they may be forced to take the breaks too.

The 2014-15 schedule approved by the board of the Okanagan Skaha School District this week adds three professional development days for teachers into the calendar that had previously been taken in August.

School days will be lengthened by four to five minutes depending on grade to make up for the lost instructional time.

While teachers supported the change, the Canadian Union of Public Employees remains concerned its members  will lose pay when schools close.

“CUPE is definitely disappointed in the number of pro-D days in next year’s school calendar, as any day that school is not in session results in lost hours of work for CUPE members,” Okanagan Skaha unit chair Alison Reigh said in a statement.

“Custodians, educational assistants, library assistants and bus drivers will all be affected.

She said CUPE will suggest to the district training and work opportunities for members to undertake on those three days, but noted any such proposals will need to be approved during upcoming budget deliberations.

“We are hopeful, but we have been disappointed before,” said Reigh.

School board chairman Bruce Johnson said he looks forward to a collaborative effort with CUPE.

“Every attempt will be made to provide pro-D opportunities for as many CUPE employees as possible ... so they would either be doing work on those days or attending classes to enhance their job,” said Johnson.

“I can’t guarantee that there won’t be some lost wages, but we’re trying to keep that to a minimum.”

Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union president Leslea Woodward said her members voted 85 per cent in favour of the new arrangement, consultation on which began in January.

“We’re glad it’s done, and hopefully next year the process will go much quicker,” she said.

Teachers have yet to begin any job action following an unrelated, affirmative strike vote in early March.

Woodward said the B.C. Teachers’ Federation sat down with government representatives Wednesday for the first of 13 scheduled negotiation dates and there will be no job action as long as the two sides are making headway.

The B.C. government is seeking a 10-year deal with teachers, who have been without a contract since June 2013.

“We’ll just wait and see,” Woodward said. “We’re willing to talk. We’ve put reasonable proposals on the table and hopefully we’ll be able to meet halfway.”

Also this week, the Western News withdrew a complaint against the Okanagan Skaha School District in regard to a $185 fee attached to a freedom of information request related to employee expenses.

After initially refusing to do so, the district honoured a $40 price quote it provided for the material. The Western News had asked the Office of the information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C. to look into the matter.

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