New Brunswick

Mounting snow days leave schools scrambling

New Brunswick school administrators are trying to figure out how to make up lost school time because of the mounting snow days.

Some New Brunswick students may have only 165 days of instructional time in class this school year

New Brunswick school administrators are trying to figure out how to make up lost school time because of the mounting snow days.

In Moncton, students have already missed 10 days of school so far because of winter-related cancellations.

Anglophone superintendents received permission from the provincial government earlier this week to adjust their calendars so they can add more instructional time to their classes.

A professional learning day for teachers scheduled for April 30 (or April 20 in Anglophone South) has been cancelled.

Gregg Ingersoll, the superintendent with the Anglophone East School District, said the decision to cancel a professional development day was not taken lightly.

“We all talked to our own staff about it and it's certainly not something that we like to do because professional learning we all value that and how important it is for our staff to have that,” Ingersoll said.

When we have as many snow days as we've had ... we have to start considering things that we probably wouldn't normally look at.- Greg Ingersoll, Anglophone East superintendent

“But at the same time, a year like this one, when we have as many snow days as we've had that we have to start considering things that we probably wouldn't normally look at."

Lost days are a concern, especially considering the snow days came in a relatively short period of time, he said.

Ingersoll said teachers will have to figure out how they will fit curriculum into the remaining school days.

The superintendent said no other events have been cancelled, but he said administrators will have to assess things, such as class trips, outings and assemblies.

The contract between the New Brunswick Teachers' Federation and the provincial government stipulates teachers will be paid for 195 days a school year.

However, not all of those are instructional days for students, allowing teachers to attend professional development days, union meetings, and hold parent-teacher meetings, for example.

According to the 2014-15 calendar for New Brunswick's Anglophone West School District, students would have a maximum of 179 instructional days in the school year, taking into account the cancelled professional development day on April 30.

But that total of possible instructional days is before snow days and other events and issues that close schools.

Some school districts have already lost 10 instructional days to storm cancellations.

Meanwhile, students at Devon Middle School in Fredericton lost an additional four instructional days in January when a pipe burst in the school over the Christmas break and flooding damaged the school and delayed the January opening. And students at Moncton High School lost additional school days when moving into a new facility.

As a result, and with more storm cancellations possible before the end of the school year, some students may possibly receive 165 days of instruction, or fewer, this school year — 30 fewer than the number of days teachers are to work under their union contract.

While education officials  in New Brunswick try to figure out how to make up for lost time, educators across the border in Maine are doing something completely different.

School officials there are dealing with storm days by sending students to school on Saturdays.

"We actually talked about that amongst the school district and they all pretty much agreed and the teachers too — we always involve all the staff. We're not crazy about going on Saturdays."

Maine legislators are also looking at a bill that would extend the school day by one hour to make up for time lost to storm days.

However, Ingersoll said school districts in New Brunswick can't look at Saturday sittings or extending the school day because they are governed by union contracts and change would have to be made at the provincial level.

New Brunswick Teachers' Association president Peter Fullerton says storm days don't usually come as a surprise in New Brunswick and teachers make up for it  in different ways, such as assigning extra work when a storm day is looming.

"We could curtail some of the non-essential activities, things that might have to do with social learning, but actually may not be part of a curricular outcome,`said Fullerton. ``Things like winter carnival, things like actual trips that you may take that may enhance the curricular learning, but are not actually essential."

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