Teacher full-day collaboration gone, school calendar to change 

Two options on the table as collaboration time is incorporated into school days

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Local principals are looking for feedback on two proposed calendars for the 2015/16 school year, given that full-day teacher planning and development days, a unique local experiment known as collaboration days, are no longer on the table.

Instead of three to five collaboration days, built into the school calendar each year to allow teachers time to plan and work together without students in class, there are now two calendar options that will make room for teacher collaboration within school days.

Myrtle Philip parent Dave Clark can see the benefits of full day collaboration days as well as shorter time periods.

"It's unfortunate it needs to be one or the other," he said.

Instructional time remains the same as before.

The first option would see early dismissal time every Wednesday at 1:50 p.m., about 50 minutes earlier than every other day.

The second option would see dismissal every day at 2:40 p.m., two minutes earlier that the current dismissal time, in addition to a half day every third Wednesday, with dismissal on that day at 12:05 p.m.

Both scenarios have pros and cons associated with them.

Myrtle Philip Community School Principal Jeff Maynard said he has had a fair amount of feedback in the last week. That, he added, is critical to develop the best recommendation for the community.

“We want to hear from the community about the schedule,” said Maynard, adding that it will go to the board March 11 for a decision.

“People have really brought in some good feedback… There’s some real foundational reasons behind which one (option) might be more supported, which is a positive thing because people are thinking about how this is going to impact them.”

The three Whistler principals are in close communication to ultimately compile the feedback and make their recommendations to the board.

“The parent and staff feedback is very much taken into consideration,” said Lisa McCullough, superintendent of School District 48. “But it is not a vote.”

The board will ultimately make the decision

The issues around full-day collaboration days came to a head during September’s job action.

At the heart of the matter was the issue of whether or not collaboration days were actually a “day of work” and as such, subject to the normal standards of EI, pension, and mandatory attendance.

“We realized that we had this issue all along,” said McCullough. “Let’s just say we had a manageable arrangement and we were moving forward with it. And yes, it was during job action that it just didn’t stand the test of whether or not it was a work day or a vacation day.

“The complication has just become so problematic that we’re not able to resolve it.”

It is not a contentious issue, she added.

The president of the Sea to Sky Teachers’ Association (SSTA) Carl Walker said while he recognizes the problem in the designation of the collaboration days, he said they’re still legal.

“Our position is they’re certainly legal and legitimate as long as schools are fulfilling their requirements for instruction,” he said.

Collaboration days are over and above the instructional time defined in the School Act and the calendar regulations. For the past decade in Whistler and Pemberton the days have been voluntary time that teachers have used to plan and work together.

“It’s an unfortunate loss for these schools,” said McCullough. She could not say how Whistler and Pemberton, alone in the province, came to have collaboration days.

But they haven’t always been popular with parents concerned that extra minutes added on each day does not make up for full days away from school.

About five years ago a group of concerned parents took the issue to then superintendent Dr. Rick Erickson. To no avail.

Peter Jory, the district’s director of instruction: technology and innovation, said that while the full-day collaboration days have been successful, the solutions on the table would work too.

“We think that the teachers are going to find a way to make it just as effective for them,” he said.

Added Maynard: “Really, it’s having that time and valuing that time. I think you’re going to see positive things that come out of that. It doesn’t matter really what shape or form they’re in, ultimately it’s that we carve time that we dedicate for collaboration and that in itself is the powerful piece.”

Whistler Secondary School will host a meeting on the school calendar for parents next Wednesday, Feb. 25 at 6:15 p.m.

A version of this article appears in Pique's print edition on Thursday, Feb. 19.

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