School schedules will have some adjustments

Adjustments of Penticton school schedule next year will see occasional late starts for some students and afternoons off for others

Adjustments of two school schedules in Penticton and Summerland next year will see occasional late starts for some students and afternoons off for others.

And while kids are out enjoying their free time, teachers will be putting their heads together under the new collaborative-time pilot project.

“Surprisingly, with a staff of 70, it’s shocking how few opportunities there are to give teachers that chance to get together and share,” said Penticton Secondary School principal Alan Stel.

He said his teachers will be given one hour on 11 Wednesday mornings throughout the 2013-14 year to focus on themes like literacy and numeracy, and discuss how best to improve student achievement in those areas. On those days, classes will start an hour later than usual at 9:33 a.m. To make up for that lost instructional time, four minutes will be added to each school day.

“Kids are not actually, literally losing any time; it’s teachers offering their time,” Stel explained, adding staff members voted 85 per cent in favour of trying the pilot project.

The model has already been in place at Princess Margaret Secondary for four years, and its trial run at an elementary school is set for next year at Giant’s Head in Summerland. Students there will be dismissed at 12:15 p.m. on six days throughout the year. Three minutes will be added to school days to cover that time. Principal Darcy Mullin said he explained the changes to the parent advisory council and at a public meeting, but still expects some working parents will be concerned about finding child care on those days. He noted, however, that there is a daycare at the school and he’s been in touch with the town’s recreation department about adding programming on those days.

Teachers at Summerland Secondary School will also get collaborative time next year, although it won’t require a schedule adjustment. Instead, once a week for an hour, staff members there will split into two groups, one of which will share knowledge, while the other will supervise students. The groups will then switch places.

Leslea Pryde, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union, said educators will use collaborative time for professional development related to school-based initiatives, rather than the more personalized training they receive on regular professional development days.

“We need to do that professional development to keep on top of new things coming out and research and whatnot,” she said. “And a lot of teachers take that on their own time and they spend their summers doing it as well.”

Pryde said the provision of collaborative time is a growing trend in B.C. schools, although it’s relatively new in this district.

“Two heads are better than one, right? And if you work well with someone you can accomplish a lot more and you can gain a lot more from each other,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Okanagan Similkameen School District will also next year try a similar pilot project. To accommodate it, all students will be dismissed 90 minutes early on seven days. Marieze Tarr, who chairs the school board, said synchronizing early dismissal days across all schools will head off any problems with bus schedules. She acknowledged the concept has gotten a rough ride from some working parents, but said the district is working with local governments to provide extra recreation activities.