Tentative school exam schedule in question as Edmonton public administrators consider more inclusive religious holidays

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The 2023-2024 school year for Edmonton Public Schools will not include more religious holidays, unless the province adjusts the tentative exam schedule.

school calendar was approved on Tuesday, but only after several amendments were rejected.

The changes are aligned with the board’s goal of making the school calendar more inclusive of significant religious days.

Seven holidays have been requested by the public and the school division hopes to include five additional holidays in the future. Two celebrations under consideration, Diwali/Bandi Chhor Divas and Lunar New Year, fall on weekends that year.

Superintendent Darrel Robertson said he has sent a letter to the Department of Education about two more dates that fit into the province’s proposed 2023-2024 exam schedule.

Eid al-Fitr is April 10 during provincial achievement exams and Eid al-Adha is June 17 during graduation exams.

“I have received a letter from the department…they will take our comments into consideration when they finalize the graduation exam schedule,” Robertson said.

He said the community of Brooks also asked the province for those dates. The finalized exam schedule is expected in the fall and the board could adjust its schedule slightly to include days off for Eid depending on the province’s decision.

The council also discussed making September 25, 2023 a holiday to mark the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Administrators had discussed making it a non-pedagogical day rather than a professional development day as planned, which would allow staff and students to celebrate. The administrators chose to leave the date as a professional development day.

Board chair Trisha Estabrooks said the Alberta School Boards Association is closely monitoring how discussions on inclusive school vacations unfold.

Council President Trisha Estabrooks said students sent handwritten letters to her and the council in support of the inclusive calendar. (Zoom/CTF)

“Hopefully this decision today helps provide some momentum,” Estabrooks said.

“Administrators across the province are aware of these are some of the actions we are taking and they are interested in what we are doing.”

In 2020, the board determined that it had to remove five teaching days from its calendar for budgetary reasons, inspiring some to advocate that certain dates with religious significance be marked as public holidays.

Five additional days off were worked in the 2021-22 school year, but they were not aligned with important dates.

In a recent division-wide survey, more than 75 percent of students said the extra days off this year were good for them. Almost 55% of staff said they liked the days off, while only 38% of families surveyed liked the days off.

About 35-40% of families surveyed cited work repercussions or childcare challenges as a negative aspect of the extra leave.

The 178 days of instruction listed in the school calendar require consideration of a number of factors, including provincial and federal employment laws, Alberta Education requirements, school board policies and regulations, and collective agreements. collective with staff.

While feedback was generally supportive of days off for important dates, there wasn’t much support for midweek days off. Nor was there much support from families for students returning to school before September.

The division created a multi-faith calendar, which went live this school year and continues to be developed.

Additionally, the Education Act allows parents to exempt their children from school for religious reasons without an academic penalty.

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