Lost wages and extra childcare costs are among the concerns expected to come out during consultation on a proposal to incorporate more professional-development days into the school calendar.
The Okanagan Skaha School District has suggested for the 2014-15 year that teachers’ pro-D days, most of which are currently scheduled in August, instead be interspersed throughout the year, resulting in four of five extra non-instructional days, depending on the proximity of Easter to spring break.
School days would be lengthened by eight minutes to make up for the lost instructional time, but the Canadian Union of Public Employees is worried its members won’t have the same opportunity to make up lost wages.
Jose van Berkel, secretary-treasurer for CUPE Local 523, said the change would affect 80 per cent of her members, like custodians and certified educational assistants.
“So they would lose five days of pay, unless the board comes up with some strategic plan to allow these members to work,” she said.
Van Berkel suggested the CEAs could do professional development of their own, while custodians could devote their time to undertake maintenance projects not possible with students around.
The change was floated in December and the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union was initially concerned it was being used as “a scapegoat for the seemingly predetermined decision to eliminate five days of work for CUPE,” president Leslea Woodward wrote in a letter to the school board.
Secretary-treasurer Bonnie Roller Routley acknowledged at this month’s school board meeting the move could save up to $50,000 on CUPE wages, but insisted money was not the motivation.
“I just want to be very, very clear as well that this was not brought forward as a cost-saving measure. This was brought forward as a way to look at better models for pro-D,” she said.
“Perhaps some of the savings will allow us to add some pro-D time for CUPE members throughout the school year.”
Woodward said she’s satisfied now the district’s intentions were good, and noted that interspersing pro-D days throughout the school year will help teachers make regular adjustments to their methods through continuous training.
“If it’s ongoing throughout the year, it’s skill-building,” she said.
Assistant superintendent Dave Burgoyne noted OSTU would have to agree to any changes, which will be fully explored in meetings with partner groups during a two-month consultation process, double what’s required because “it is quite a change to the calendar that’s being proposed.”
He said the proposed switch was made possible by recent changes to the School Act.
Keeping kids busy on those additional days off is another key concern, said Derek Hurst, chairman of the district parent advisory council.
“It’s five extra days of figuring out what you’re going to do with your kid,” he said.
“I think it’s going to cause more of an issue for elementary schools.”