Changes in school calendar go public

Drafting a school calendar has often been controversial and again this year, the Cowichan Valley School District is putting its plans for 2014/15 out there for public comment.

The consultation process started Jan. 15 with Trustee Mike McKay agreeing to send an early draft of the new school year calendar forward to see what the reaction is. Schools superintendent Joe Rhodes said, "We’re only halfway through the school year and yet, because the ministry has changed their requirements for school calendars, we need to come up with a draft calendar for next year to put out for consultation now.

"We have to submit to the ministry by March 31 a school calendar that can demonstrate that it’s compliant to their new rule. The only rule they have now is that we must provide X number of instructional hours for our students depending on their grade and age.

"They like to vet that calendar and get it back to us as approved prior to the time in May when we put the calendar out formally."

Rhodes said that district staff, led by Sheryl Koers, acting director of elementary education, has put together the draft.

"The significant change is the piece around the five-day district closure and the piece around PLCs [professional learning community days] and the piece around parent teacher interviews," Rhodes said.

That could be sticky indeed because many parents may not realize yet that they can only come in to talk to teachers during the day, not at night as had been previously possible.

"It’s really unfortunate that we haven’t had the chance to go through the first day-time parent teacher interviews. But we will have done that within the consultation period. We will get the appropriate feedback as to whether that’s a good thing or needs to be reconsidered," Rhodes said.

"But this is very much a draft.

We need to reach agreement with the teachers union around when the professional development days actually are. We have put in traditional placeholders for when they have historically been."

Koers added, "The calendar is compliant for the number of hours required. Now it just has to be determined if we have got the days right for people. That’s the part that will go out for consultation."

A copy of the draft is on the Cowichan Valley School District website under school board agendas and minutes.