Edmonton Public Schools can save money by adding time to school days, report says

Edmonton Public Schools could save money if school days become longer for elementary and junior high students, according to a new report presented to trustees Tuesday afternoon.

The report found that if school days for students in Grades 1 to 9 were two minutes longer, that would mean one fewer instructional day and ultimately, lower expenses for the school district.

The board could save a “conservative estimate” of $150,000 per day in transportation costs for each day that kids aren’t in school, according to the superintendent’s report.

That amount includes fuel and staffing costs, the report said. 

“Reducing the number of days that the buses are on the road would also allow more time for preventative maintenance on vehicles,” reads the document.

The school district is required to provide 950 instructional hours to elementary and junior high students each year. 

These teaching hours are currently spread out over 183 days.

But the report states that there are no requirements around the number of teaching days needed. 

Another proposal to save money is to give teachers three additional personal development days and two non-instructional days to save roughly $2 million, superintendent Darrel Robertson told the board.

I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that this is a day off for our staff– Darrel Robertson, superintendent

Those five days would also save the board $750,000 in busing fees as students would not be in class.

To achieve that, about 11 minutes would need to be added to each school day, Robertson explained.

He emphasized to the board that although kids wouldn’t be in class during those five professional development days, teachers wouldn’t have free time. 

“Professional development is very intensive hard work for our staff. I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that this is a day off for our staff. It is not a day off for our staff,” he said.

The number of staff sick days might also be reduced if there are fewer teaching days, the superintendent wrote in his report to the board.

The document comes after school board trustees asked administration in November to find ways to save money after the province cut funding in the fall budget. 

Trisha Estabrooks, board chair, lead Tuesday’s meeting where trustees voted in favour of collecting classroom data for this school year. (Dave Bajer/CBC)

But there was no decision on the information brought forward on Tuesday, nor is there any timeline as to when it could happen.

“As of yet, there’s no action on this. As was clearly communicated by myself and many of my colleagues, if any action is taken on this, of course we would need to consult with parents,” said board chair Trisha Estabrooks on Tuesday.

“Adding additional days off, I’m a parent myself, I understand the implications of that and what that means for childcare, for example. Any change to the school calendar absolutely demands we have a thorough conversation with parents.” 

Classroom sizes

The majority of board trustees also voted in favour on Tuesday of tracking classroom sizes this school year.  

As of October, the provincial government no longer requires schools to report the sizes of their classrooms.

Trustee Michael Janz brought a motion forward at the Nov. 26 meeting suggesting the school board “continue to collect and publish class size data consistent with previous reporting requirements.”

“Knowledge is power. At Edmonton Public Schools, we take pride in our evidence-based decision making. Absent clear and consistent reporting tools, it is difficult to track and visualize the impact of funding to the classroom,” said a report sent to the board ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. 

It goes on to say “not having standardized reporting could be problematic” and that it would be best to “continue reporting in a consistent format that encourages other school boards and parents the ability to measure year-over-year averages.”

The board will consult with other “school jurisdictions to develop a potential reporting model that takes into account class size and complexity” in future school years.