LAKELAND - After roughly 15 years, Lakeland Catholic School Division will be parting ways with its early dismissal days during the next school year.
The school division sought feedback from parents, students, teachers, support staff and community stakeholders through the month of February on two proposed draft calendars for the 2023-24 school year.
After reviewing feedback from the public, the LCSD Board of Trustees opted to approve the draft most popular among survey respondents during its regular board meeting on March 15.
The most significant change was the removal of early dismissal days scattered throughout the year. The instructional hours gained will allow for additional full days of staff Professional Development throughout the school year instead.
The current 2022-23 calendar year has 17 early dismissal days on Wednesdays. Next year, the division calendar will have 11 division-wide professional development days, adding about three extra full days dedicated to staff development that were previously split among Wednesday afternoons.
In total, there are 196 operational days and 182 instructional days scheduled for next year, compared to this year’s 196 operational days and 183 instructional days.
According to Chantel Axani, Lakeland Catholic’s deputy superintendent, feedback received on the proposed 2023-24 division calendars saw an increase of student input and overall positive reviews.
“A lot of the feedback has been very positive for parents and for teachers with regards to their feeling that we are really taking into account the mental health and wellness of our students and our staff,” said Axani. “It feels like we're working towards a balance of both, where in the past that wasn't necessarily the feeling from teachers.”
Board trustee Donna Cloutier added, “I can appreciate your outlook for the children and teachers because their mental health and stamina matter.”
Following the deputy superintendent’s presentation, board vice chair Vicky Lefebvre voiced concern about losing instructional time in the year.
“I have no problem changing, but I expect to see those changes come with results because it's always easy to change and do what other people are doing,” said Lefebvre. “If it means better health for your children and for your schoolteachers that should show in our results the following year.”
Lefebvre also pointed to learning disruptions caused by the pandemic and shared that she felt it was important to keep instructional time front of mind to help students catch up.
Axani confirmed that the 2023-24 division calendar was still over the instructional minutes required for all grades. “We are over those ranges because you know that next year buses won’t be running due to inclement weather or what have you.”
The deputy superintendent also noted that she is interested in hearing feedback from teachers and principals about how the shift from professional development periods on Wednesday afternoons to full days on Fridays will impact staff members.
“Sometimes it's harder when you're dismissing [early], and you are wrapping up the day,” Axani noted.
Other highlights include an Aug. 31, 2023, start date for students in Grades 1 through 12, with the staggered start for Kindergarten students from Aug. 31 to Sept. 6, and the last day of instruction for all students is June 27, 2024.
Nov. 9 to 13 is fall break, while the Christmas break runs from Dec. 23 to Jan. 7, and the Easter break is from April 2 to 7.
The approved 2023-24 division calendar can be viewed on Lakeland Catholic’s website.