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Class size reporting and impact of school calendar

The Edmonton Public School Board of Trustees held our first meeting of 2020, here are the highlights from today:

Communications from board chair

Board Chair Estabrooks expressed sorrow and condolences on behalf of the board for the lives lost in the plane crash in Iran, including two Edmonton Public School students.  All of our thoughts are with their families and friends. She expressed that we have provided feedback and are expecting to hear from the province on both the funding framework review for education in this province and the curriculum review panel findings.  Our chair also thanked our division’s maintenance workers for their work in keeping our school buildings safe and working well.

Motion on class size reporting

Trustee Michael Janz provided rationale for a motion to continue reporting class size information.  The Alberta Education funding manual no longer requires school board to report class size data and our board discussed the importance of continuing to track this data to measure the impact on funding cuts.  Trustees discussed the class size metric and many acknowledged that this does not tell the full picture of the cuts, as there is a great deal of complexity in teaching to a varied classroom of students.  This motion was amended to include consultation with other jurisdictions and the potential of looking at metrics other than just class size to tell the full story of the impact of funding on the quality of education.  The motion passed with a vote of 6-3.  I was in support of continuing to track this information so that we can contribute to the conversation on class size as it continues in this province.

Report on potential calendar changes

The board discussed a report on the impact of lengthening school days in order to shorten the number of instructional days and increase the number of professional development days available to teachers.  We heard that each instructional day costs approximately $150,000 in bussing costs and decreasing instructional days can save some nominal costs in transportation.

Trustees also heard that increasing the number of division-wide PD days can save supply costs (costs to hire substitute teachers when a regular classroom teacher misses a day of work to attend professional development).  An increase in the number of dedicated days for PD will mean less teachers having to miss a day of instruction to further their learning and an additional 3 PD days per year could save a total of $2 Million dollars in supply costs, but would also necessitate 2 additional non-instructional days.

The  board discussed the need to look everywhere for potential savings, and the increased stress of teachers and all staff who will be asked to do more with less given current cuts.  We discussed the importance of staff health and also the importance of supporting staff with time for professional development in order to increase the quality of education available to students, while keeping teachers in front of their classrooms rather than hiring substitute teachres.  We also expressed concerns about the impact to parents and the possibility for partnering with Metro Continuing Education or other community partners to offer day camps should this be a direction the board considers in the future.

You can view our board meeting online.