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Early dismissal allows for meetings

Teaching staff and administrators in Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district will spend Monday afternoons discussing and working on new ideas and teaching practices.

At the regular board meeting on Jan. 29, school trustees voted in favour of establishing professional learning communities – groups of educators that focus on student learning – at district schools. The plan will see collaborative sessions focusing on district-wide in-service and related issues.

Schools will let out an hour early for the learning communities for three Mondays this year (March 31, April 28 and May 12). An opportunity for community feedback will follow the three sessions.

Full implementation will take place in the 2014-15 school year, with learning communities taking place every Monday for 32 weeks.

“It’s an outcome of our strategic plan and looking at ways we can systematically, throughout the district, system wide, find ways to improve student learning and one of the things that we do know is that teachers working and collaborating together is one of the best ways to do that,” said school district spokeswoman Donna Reimer.

Adjustments will be made to the busing schedule to accommodate the sessions, after concern was expressed about the early dismissal during the plan’s development. Ways to further assist families with early dismissal were discussed, but Reimer said those plans are still being developed and depend on individual schools. One of the possible options could see support staff providing activities for students, she said.

Support staff will not lose any working hours as a result of the professional learning communities, Reimer said.

Along with the school district, representatives from the teachers’ union, support workers’ union, district parent advisory council and school administrators’ association were involved in the development of the plan.

“Teachers don’t get enough time to sit down and talk with colleagues,” said Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association president Mike Ball, who was involved in the process. “The days are long as it is – embedding it in the work day puts more value on it.”

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