Edmonton Public plans to add 5 more PD, off days to school calendar

The Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) is looking to add more days off to next year’s school calendar.

A few weeks ago, EPSB said it would be one day; Now it’s five: three PD days and two non-instructional days.

Trisha Estabrooks, chair for EPSB, said it’s all in an effort to reduce costs after a $34.4-million budget shortfall this year. According to Estabrooks, five more days off for students would mean more than $2.7 million saved.

“It costs us $150,000 for one day of busing. So that’s the $750,000 for five days. The additional $2 million is realized when we believe we have costs savings for our substitute teachers. So right now my child’s classroom teacher can participate in a Professional Development day outside of the already set up five days,” Estabrooks said.

In a letter to parents, the board wrote: “As part of this work, we are considering adjustments to the 2020‐21 school year calendar. The changes would mean five additional days when school won’t be in session. Each school day would be expanded by about 10 minutes to account for fewer school days.”

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EPSB asked parents to fill out a survey on where they’d prefer to see the days off fall.

“What would be easiest on your family? Would you prefer, for example, to have those PD days and the non-instructional days… grouped together? Or would you prefer to have them spread throughout the year?” Estabrooks said.

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Capital City Gymnastics runs PD day camps for students. For them, more days off for students is a bonus.

“That’s five more days that we have the opportunity to have them come in and spend a great day and it gives the parents an option as to what their kids can do,” Maureen Stewart, from Capital City Gymnastics, said. “Our camps fill up very quickly.”

It’s those extra costs that parents will have to weigh out.

“I don’t work… so I’m OK, my kids are home. But for those moms that are working, I guess it would be hard for them to just leave the kids at child care on the days they’re not suppose to be there,”  said Sadia Khan, a parent of three young children.

On the current 2019-2020 calendar, not including summer break, students have 25 days off between PD days, operational days and teachers’ convention. Then there’s teachers’ days in lieu and non-instructional days — when both students and teachers are off.

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You can access the division calendar poll from SchoolZone or epsb.ca, Edmonton Public Schools’ website.

The proposed extra five days would bring the total days off to 30, over 10 months.

“I know it’s not easy. I know it’s tough to find child care and so, I have empathy for parents being in this position,” Estabrooks said.

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Parents have until Feb. 10 to fill out the survey online on the Edmonton Public Schools website.

The EPSB will then vote on it and make a final decision at the end of the month.

In a statement to Global News, The Alberta Teachers’ Association said: “As we are at the bargaining table, we cannot comment on discussions had by the parties.”

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