ST. PAUL - After reaching out to staff and parents for feedback, St. Paul Education has approved its 2023/24 school year calendar, with a few tweaks included.
Superintendent Peter Barron spoke to the board of trustees during the Feb. 8 monthly meeting, explaining that two options of the calendar were put out to staff and parents to review in December.
A total of 182 responses were received from parents, along with a number of staff also offering feedback. In both groups, the majority of respondents opted to Option A over Option B.
"We received lots of great feedback," said Barron.
The first day of school for students will be Sept. 5, 2023, which is just after the Labour Day long weekend, while teachers will go back to work on Aug. 29. Barron spoke to the number of days set aside at the start of the school year for staff to prepare, noting it was an important time for teachers.
He also noted a shift in language around what was previously labelled as days "in lieu" on the school calendar. While those days still exist in the calendar, they are no longer labelled that way. On the approved calendar, days "in lieu" are now simply labelled as days the schools are closed.
Another change in language reflected on the calendar is a shift from PD [Professional Development] days now being called PLC days - which stands for Professional Learning Community. PLC days offer staff an opportunity to collaborate between one another, and with staff at other division schools, explained Barron. He noted it broadens a previously more strict view of what professional development entails.
Barron also noted that it is important to relay to the public why these PLC days are important and in turn benefit students. He noted that when staff can discuss specific challenges with other staff members, it often translates to solutions in the classroom.
Overall, the school calendar has a similar number of instructional days and is fairly evenly split between term one and term two, however, one amendment that was made was bumping a mid-week semester break PLC day to the end of the week, as per the request of parents. While the start of the second semester will still be Jan. 31, the PLC day will take place on Feb. 2 for staff.
A 2 p.m. dismissal was also included ahead of teacher convention in February to allow staff the opportunity to head to Edmonton earlier for the convention.
Board chair Sylvie Smyl felt there was lots of "chatter" around the calendar this year, and she personally heard a lot of feedback.
Trustee Dwight Wiebe also noted that he heard people voice appreciation for being allowed to offer feedback and be part of the process.
Barron described the school calendar as an "invisible structure." When the structure does not work well, it is noticed, but when it does work well, things simply flow as they should.
Pointing to the number of breaks included in the calendar, the superintendent stated it was important to include several breaks for students throughout the year.
"Learning should have breaks," he noted, adding students need time to process the things they are being taught.
An extended long weekend in November has been created around Remembrance Day, with students off from Nov. 9-13. The last day of class before Christmas break will be Dec. 22, and students will return on Jan. 8.
Teachers convention will again run over the Family Day long weekend from Feb. 15-19. Spring break is set for March 25 to April 1 in 2024.
The calendar includes 180 instructional day, and 15 non-instructional days. The last day of class is set for June 26, 2024.