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SD27 Board of Education approves draft calendar for public feedback

Updated: School District 27 could be moving to a school calendar that has no in-session days commonly referred to as fall break.

The Board of Education approved the 2020/2021 draft calendar that removes the fall break for 30-day public consultation at Tuesday’s public meeting.

“Again that was a good clarifying point tonight is just because you recommend it, doesn’t mean that it’s going to go,” said superintendent of schools, Chris van der Mark. “So now that that’s been out, it goes out for 30 days and then we see if that one is approved and done but as you can see it’s a challenging one just given some of the factors at play.”

The District received more than 700 survey responses from a recent calendar survey.

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Director of Instruction Dean Coder said while responses varied across stakeholders some common themes emerged including student learning should be the primary driver, a belief that the current schedule may improve the mental health of students and employees, and regardless of the calendar, days out of session create challenges for parents.

Assistant Superintendent Harj Manhas said it was 14 years ago he sat on the committee when it was decided to look at the calendar and to implement the District’s current calendar with a fall break.

“It was solely based on saving money and it wasn’t based on at the time, it didn’t look at the perspective of what impact it would have educationally on the students,” he said. “The reason why it was done was just the times where the Ministry had changed the funding process and the Districts had to find money quickly.”

Trustee Linda Martens was the only Trustee who did not vote in favor of approving the draft calendar for public consultation. She said the motion was too early, and that that particular week in the fall was beneficial to teachers who are the most important factors in a child’s education.

“My last four years as an educator I did enjoy the fall break and it just wasn’t time off to go and have some fun. It was a time where I could do medical appointments, vehicle maintenance, and actually get a lot of school work done at the same time,” Trustee Anne Kohut said. “The two-week break I found really great too in the spring, however, I have worked for 16 years with vulnerable students and I know exactly what is meant by schools being a safe place for many of them, not even to mention the food.”

450 students were identified within the ‘bowl’ of the city of Williams Lake living below the poverty level based on recent community data.

“Again we can’t fix all of that but are there things that we can do to make it not so hard?” van der Mark asked. “It won’t hurt, it’s not going to harm anyone. It may be inconvenient for some people but it may take a little pressure off some people and what’s that worth? We don’t want it to be an either-or.”

Following the approval, teacher Tess Riley told the Board the importance of making people feel that their voices are being heard.

“We engage with them regularly and weekly, so we will continue to do that,” van der Mark said. “Again I think as we talked about tonight we’re not going to hear a lot more different based on all the information we’ve got from senior staff was the best course of action for our District and we’ll see what the continued feedback continues to look like.”

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