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Trustees approve in-service days despite feedback from parents

Nanaimo students will get an extra day and a half off from attending class this year so that the district can discuss new initiatives, strategic planning and other issues with all employees at the same time.

The plan is to gather all of the district’s teachers, educational assistants, custodial and clerical staff, school leaders and others together for one full-day in-service workshop Feb. 1 and a half-day session in March. The initiative is designed to put all employees on the same page, as they will receive the same instruction at the same time.

After a month-long consultation, trustees approved the initiative at Wednesday’s board meeting.

Feedback from parents included a number of concerns and about 41 of the roughly 67 respondents think the initiative is a bad idea for several reasons – not wanting to see reduced instructional time, bad timing for the in-service and the district already has too many professional development days.

John Blain, deputy superintendent, acknowledged that adding the in-service in February brings the total number of days off for students that month to four – there are already two professional development days and one statutory holiday in February – but Feb. 1 (a Friday) is supposed to be the start of the second semester for secondary students and the day off school gives students and teachers a better transition into semester two.

“I think when we weigh what we see as an ability to improve and bring the district together for student learning, that outweighs the cons,” he said, adding that officials plan to review the effectiveness of the in-service days at the end of the year to determine if it is worthwhile.

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said giving students an extra day and a half off will present challenges for some parents to provide child care, but the district needs to inform employees about new initiatives and get their support.

“This is the only way we could do this in a formalized way,” he said.

The in-service sessions are in addition to and different from the six professional development days in teacher contracts, which are for teachers to develop skill sets in specific areas of interest as opposed to instruction for all employees in what they need to know to work in the district.

Schools will still meet Education Ministry requirements for a minimal number of instructional hours in the school year.

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