Dear Parents and Guardians:
You may not be aware that the type and minimum number of non-instructional days in a school year are determined provincially through negotiation between the Ministry of Education and the British Columbia Teachers’ Union. Typically, there have been six in British Columbia, with additional days added in recent years to support the adoption of New Curriculum. However, the placement of these days is determined at the local level through a calendar consultation process with School District stakeholders.
As you likely know, our School District placed a non-instructional day in September, two more in October, and another in November. This was part of an intentional “front-loading” plan for staff learning, designed to build momentum in some critical areas of understanding across our School District. We are aware that placing multiple days so near to each other at the beginning of the school year can create challenges for some families, so we wanted to share our appreciation for your patience, as well as give you some further insight into the learning that has happened, and will happen, on these non-instructional days.
Here is a summary:
On September 17th we brought all the employees in the School District together to learn about our Strategic Plan, then had 61 different learning sessions organized for teachers, educational support staff, custodians, and bus drivers, all co-designed and led by School District No. 83 staff. Sessions for teachers and educational support staff focused on the Ministry of Education’s New Curriculum, and sessions for non-educational staff focused mostly on skill-building and health and safety activities. A survey afterwards indicated 90% of our staff have reported their activities on this curriculum implementation day were “valuable learning” that they could use to better support our students.
October 5th was the one day that nationally renowned author and assessment leader Sandra Herbst was available to work with teachers from our School District. This school-based non-instructional day was designed using the feedback we received from student and parents in our 2016 and 2017 communicating student learning surveys, and was mindful of the assessment challenges teachers will face with the New Curriculum. While a few school staffs chose to work on specific school-based learning topics, most elected to attend our main session with Sandra Herbst, along with 50 teachers from the Revelstoke School District who attended as our guests. Sandra received a standing ovation from the 300+ session participants, a rare showing of enthusiasm for an outside facilitator, and a clear indicator that the learning really “hit the mark” for our teachers.
October 19th was a provincial professional development day. In our District, staff engaged in a wide variety of professional development including mental health for students, Indigenous education, outdoor education, numeracy, literacy, education supported by technology, sexual orientation gender identity (SOGI) initiatives, robotics, student resiliency, and much more.
November 13th is a Ministry of Education designated day, with the content determined by the Ministry of Education. This year teachers will be working on one of the four identified areas: implementation of New Curriculum, Indigenous education, SOGI, and student mental health. We look forward to hosting a number of workshops at our schools which further support these challenging topic areas.
There are three more non-instructional days to follow this year, occurring on February 15th, April 23rd, and May 17th, with the learning to be designed for what staff needs to best support student learning at that time. Additionally, there will also be a semester “turnaround” day at our secondary schools this year to support more effective use of the end of semester assessment week, as well as an administrative day at the end of June, which has been standard across the province for many years.
We think it is a good practice to let parents and guardians know what school teams, senior staff, and our unions are collaboratively doing to support staff learning on non-instructional days. We also think it is important to express our gratitude for allowing us to place these days in the way we thought most effective for moving student learning forward. Therefore, on behalf of the School District and all of our teaching staff, we would like to a offer you a sincere thank-you.
Peter Jory, Superintendent of Schools/CEO
Christina McDermott, North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers’ Association (NOSTA)
Carl Cooper, Assistant Superintendent (Instruction)