The Okanagan Skaha school board managed to approve a calendar for the 2015-16 school year this week, but not without some heated discussion.
“We always say we are doing it for the kids, but I don’t see how kids benefit from this calendar,” said trustee Bruce Johnson.
He was concerned the calendar has schools closed to students for six days through the course of the year and extends the length of school days by five minutes to make up for lost time.
“I don’t believe that five or 10 minutes at the end of the day accomplishes very much as compared to when you are in the school for a whole day and you are going through the routine,” said Johnson, a retired educator. “All kids need consistency, they need bookends, they need solid weeks of education and learning.
“This calendar, in my opinion, doesn’t do it.”
The next school year starts on Sept. 8, 2015, and finishes June 30, 2016. The collective agreement with the Okanagan Skaha Teachers Union requires the school year to start after Labour Day and finish by the last Friday in June.
While the union has agreed to extend the year beyond the last Friday to June 30, assistant superintendent Dave Burgoyne said the union would not agree to extend the year on both ends.
Superintendent Wendy Hyer described the calendar as a complicated issue due to a “strange year” that has Labour Day falling a full week into September.
“What that does is it compresses the amount of instructional hours into a school year of a handful of days less than a normal school year,” said Superintendent Wendy Hyer. “Then we compound the issue of how the calendar falls with also closing for two days (to accommodate the Winter Games).
The calendar includes a school improvement day and five professional development days, two of which are scheduled to coincide with the closure of schools for the Winter Games in February.
In past years, some Pro-D days were scheduled in late August, allowing time for a two-week spring break. However, the 2015-16 calendar reflects a request by teachers to add those days back into the educational year.
Johnson described the resulting calendar as teacher-friendly, rather than kid-friendly. He implored OSTU to start the year earlier in this case, allowing two Pro-D days and the school improvement day to be scheduled in the first week of September.
“They still get a three day weekend and get back to school on Tuesday,” said Johnson. “I know there is a collective agreement. I know there is a problem there, but we have done it before, we can do it again, if we are really making this decision for the kids.”