School division switches to new calendar system

An aligned calendar system has been adopted by the Wolf Creek Public Schools board of trustees

An aligned calendar system has been adopted by the Wolf Creek Public Schools board of trustees and it will take effect in September of this year.

The draft C of the aligned calendar was approved on a one-year-pilot basis for the 2014/15 school year; providing there’s also an evaluation period before the calendar is re-approved for the 2015/16 year.

The school division currently operates under a differentiated calendar, which means, in order for teachers to limit themselves to the mandated number of instructional hours, they’re able to take days off over the course of the year.

This also means, historically, schools across the division routinely had different days off from school.

An aligned calendar will create 16 Fridays where every school across the division has the days off. This will allow teachers the professional development (PD) days they need to ensure teaching methods within classroom remain collaborative.

The Inspiring Education document is demanding teachers work collectively. “Teachers need to plan for (this),” said superintendent Larry Jacobs. “This means teachers need time to meet together and they can’t right now because everybody’s teaching.”

High schools are required to operate at 1000 instructional hours while grade 1 to 9 schools, which Jacobs also refers to as feeder schools, are limited to 975.

With differentiated calendars, transportation becomes an issue, as buses must drop students off at rural and feeder schools earlier in order to get students to the high school at an appropriate time. Buses also pick up at the high school first, forcing the other schools to run longer days. “May as well have them learning instead of standing in the cold,” said Jacobs.

It’s not uncommon for feeder schools to garner up to 50 extra hours of instructional time. An aligned calendar would help manage this.

Policy 19

At their March 5 meeting the board of trustees extensively debated whether they should approve the aligned calendar that day because doing so would be in conflict with Policy 19.

Policy 19 states the board will have a calendar that extends three to five years into the future, this new calendar interrupts that cycle and comes into effect in just six months. “It puts them in a bad position because it interrupts the calendar that everybody was planning around,” said Jacobs.

Trustee Bob Huff felt the policy needed to be seriously dealt with before the board could go ahead with the aligned calendar.

He was in favour of creating a committee — consisting of trustees Donna Peterson and Lorrie Jess, board chair Trudy Bratland and Jacobs — to “review and revise Policy 19 to reflect the current operating requirement. However, Huff was the only trustee to vote against adopting the calendar at this point in time.

“Part of my role is to say hey, we have these policies, we’ve got guiding principals, we often hear process is very, very important,” said Huff.

“If we hadn’t had a set of guidelines, trustees, I can understand,” he added.

A previous calendar had already been approved for next year and by adopting the new one, and contravening Policy 19, Huff felt by the integrity of the board was being jeopardized. “Our actions have to follow our policies. The process has to follow our policies.”

“Today we’re changing the policy to suit an item on the agenda . . . And that’s what bothers me,” he added.

Every other trustee voted in favour of revising Policy 19 as well as adopting the calendar on a trial basis. Peterson and Jess vocalized their favour, saying sometimes guidelines need to change, doing so is sometimes necessary to remain relevant in a changing world.