Edmonton Public Schools could add more PD days to save money: report

As the Edmonton Public School Board continues to search for cost-cutting measures following the provincial budget last fall, one idea being considered is adding more professional development days.

At the Nov. 26 school board meeting, school administration was asked to explore cost-saving measures related to the school year calendar that would maintain overall instructional time by having fewer instructional days.

The division needs to provide 950 hours of instructional time to elementary and junior high students and 1,000 hours to high school students. However, there are no regulations around the number of days of instruction students receive.

READ MORE: Edmonton public extending hours at high schools

By adding “slightly less than two minutes” to each instructional day, the school board could add one extra PD day to the school year, according to a report that will be discussed at Tuesday’s board meeting.

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Administration believes $150,000 per day could be saved through transportation costs alone, as buses would not operate on PD days.

There are also cost-savings to be had by having extra time for teachers to commit to professional learning opportunities on PD days, rather than staffing supply teachers.

“By shifting professional learning opportunities from instructional days to an increased number of professional learning days, there is the potential to generate savings in supply costs of up to $2 million,” the report reads.

In the province’s October budget, the government maintained education funding at $8.223 billion. But it also eliminated three grants — the fee replacement, classroom improvement and class-size initiative funds.

READ MORE: ‘We’re one of the losers’: Alberta rural school division pens letter over UCP education cuts

‘Knowledge is power’: Trustee calls for continued class size reporting

Another topic on the agenda for Tuesday’s board meeting is class sizes. In October, the province made changes which no longer require school boards to report class size data.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said at the time the Class Size Initiative grant spent $3.4 billion over the last 15 years but failed to deliver results when it comes to reducing class sizes.

READ MORE: Grant plan to cut Alberta class sizes has failed, says education minister

Edmonton Public Schools trustee Michael Janz has now put forward a motion which calls for the school board to continue collecting and reporting class size data despite the change.

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“This change disarms accountability advocates of the evidence required to advocate against austerity and funding cuts,” Janz said in the motion.

“Knowledge is power.”

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The loss of this grant, coupled with other cuts in the province’s budget, “dramatically harm classroom education, especially in the context of greater growth,” Janz said.

“What matters gets measured, and class size data is an imperfect metric of education funding across Alberta.

“Not having standardized reporting could be problematic, so the board 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.”

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In a statement Friday morning, a spokesperson with Alberta Education said LaGrange is working on creating a working group that will examine how best to address “complexities in the modern classroom, including class size.”

“Parents and families can be assured that, despite fear-inducing rhetoric from some individuals, their children will continue to receive a world-class, high-quality education in the province of Alberta,” Colin Aitchison said.

Janz believes the EPSB should also work with the Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta (PSBAA) and the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) to advocate for common class size reporting practices.

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