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More changes coming to school calendars

Jan. 29 and March 7 set aside for teacher training
CALENDAR CONUNDRUM Two more instructional days are coming off of school calendars next year to allow time for teacher training around the new curriculum. shutterstock photo

As school districts across the province work to implement a new curriculum, the province has directed school districts to take more instructional time out of the calendar to help train teachers.

Friday, Jan. 29 and Monday, March 7, 2016, will be set aside to train teachers in the new curriculum.

"Obviously it's come after a calendar has already been agreed to for the year, so the teachers association and our school district worked together to choose the dates as quickly as we could, because we didn't want parents waiting for a long time," explained Sea to Sky School District superintendent Lisa McCullough.

Through its traditional calendar consultations, the district is well aware of parent concerns around daycare, McCullough said, adding that the district's director of instruction will be looking into ways to help parents on the two new non-instructional days.

"She's going to be sending out messages to our early learning care to see if we can't ask them to bolster some programs for those days to help our parents out," McCullough said.

Sea to Sky Teachers Association president Steve Lloyd said that most teachers, being parents themselves, are all too aware of the concerns.

"It's taken awhile to get (the new curriculum) set, and teachers do need the time to make sure they know how to implement it for sure in the fall (of 2016)," Lloyd said.

"It's a difficult choice for the district, and for us too. We want to have as much instructional time as possible, but this was the only solution that they can come up with."

Margot Murdoch, chair of the District Parent Advisory Committee, said she understands why the decision was made, but isn't overly impressed with it.

"Instead of investing money into this they took kids' time away from school, and that's a bit of a letdown I think," she said.

"Everyone wants the teachers to be trained for this, they need professional development and they need implementation time, and the solution between the BCTF and the ministry was 10 more hours. But the kids are losing. I think it's unfair."

It has to be assumed that both the district and the teachers association have the best interests of students in mind, Murdoch said, but "what I am sad about is that in our request for teachers to be properly trained, and have the time to learn about assessment and implementation of the new education plan, the kids are losing out again.

"They should have found money somewhere, I think, to pay for that implementation."

The new provincial K to Grade 9 curriculum is currently in its "final draft" form, and will be fully implemented next year starting in 2016.

In September of 2018 a new curriculum will be in place for Grades 10 to 12 as well.

"The new curriculum looks fabulous, to be honest, and we've had a lot more time than usual to consider it and provide feedback to the ministry," McCullough said.

"We've been working on it now for a number of years, and what has come as a result, I think, is even better than what we would have traditionally had."