Bluewater changes school scheduling for Sept.

Kindergarten switch could disrupt parents’, caregivers’ schedules

By Kristen Shane


Starting September 2010, Bluewater District School Board elementary students are slated to follow a new timetabling cycle which could disrupt parents’ and caregivers’ schedules.


The change would mean students follow a two-day or five-day schedule rather than following the days of the week.


Locally, it would affect Elgin Market, Huron Heights, Kincardine Township-Tiverton public schools, as well as Ripley-Huron Community School and Lucknow Central Public School.


“Most of our elementary schools at this point in time operate under the day-of-the-week (schedule),” says Marnie Coke, superintendant of elementary education with the school board.


Next school year, instead of learning the same subjects every Monday, and a different set of subjects every Tuesday, for instance, students in Grades 1 to 8 would follow a five-day cycle that doesn’t necessarily correspond to the days of the week.


Local junior and senior kindergartners are now divided into groups A and B. One group attends every Monday, Wednesday and alternate Fridays, while the other goes every Tuesday, Thursday and alternate Fridays. That is set to change so that the two groups alternate back and forth A, B, A and so on.


Change to bring more consistency: Coke


Professional development (P.D.) days and holidays would be excluded from the cycle.


“It’s to bring more consistency to the programs so that students are not always missing the same subject that’s on a Monday when there’s a Monday holiday,” says Coke.


Same with P.D. days, which tend to happen on Fridays.


“If that’s the only day they have a specialty subject, such as music, they wouldn’t miss it,” she says.

Some high schools, such as Kincardine and District Secondary School, already follow a numbered-day schedule rather than going by the days of the week.


Introducing it to elementary schools would be a big change, says Jim Thorpe, chair of the Bluewater board’s parent involvement committee and co-chair of the Huron Heights and Elgin Market public schools’ School Community Council.


Children who rely on routine may have a hard time getting used to a new pattern, he says.


And it won’t just affect the kids.


Kindergarten changes could disrupt parents' schedules


“It’s not so easy for parents just to up and change their routine and their daily lives. This just makes it a little bit more challenging for people who rely on having their kids go to school on the same day of the week,” he says, referring to the kindergarten schedule difference.


For instance, a parent who works part time while their child is in kindergarten would no longer have a steady schedule.


“If one week, I’m going to work Monday and Wednesday and the next week Tuesday and Thursday,” says Thorpe, “I don’t know if all employers will be so flexible.”


It would also be tough for parents of kindergartners to regularly attend weekly scheduled activities, such as a Wednesday morning yoga class, says Thorpe.


Coke says parents can find the current kindergarten system confusing because, with P.D. days and other changes, it’s hard to keep track of which Fridays their children attend school.


With the new system, she says, “We think that will actually be of benefit to parents because they’ll know that their child goes every other day.”


The change is set to affect not only the Bluewater board but all public school boards across the province.

Coke says most Ontario school boards have already switched to five-day scheduling.


“We see it as very positive. We heard from other places that it works out really well,” she says.


Change sparked at provincial level


The scheduling decision was not made by the Ontario Ministry of Education, but it had to be sanctioned by the minister. Teachers’ unions and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association agreed to the change at provincial-wide collective agreement discussions last spring, says Cynthia Lemon, head of the Bluewater board’s human resources. Lemon had to then include it and other provincially-decided clauses in the local board’s collective agreement, which was finalized in June.


The scheduling change was only made public locally for the first time Feb. 16 through a staff presentation to trustees at their monthly board meeting.


The board plans to meet with daycare providers about it today, says Lemon. It’s also drafting a letter to tell parents who have registered their kids in kindergarten in September. Board employees are planning to publicize the changes through a media release, school and board websites, and through Home and School Associations, School Community Councils and the board’s Parent Involvement Committee.


“But once again, the board is not consulting with parents; they’re just telling parents what’s happening,” says Thorpe.


Two-way communication and ‘real consultation’ were some of the recommendations consultant Geoff Williams suggested in a September report to the board to help its trustees and senior management improve after they came under fire last spring for a publicly perceived lack of transparency and accountability.


“I very much appreciate that (parents) would have liked to have input, but this decision was made at a provincial level. It was not our decision to make,” says Lemon.


“Change always creates some anxiety until you get used to something,” says Kincardine-area trustee Jan Johnstone. “Of course, we’re going to be monitoring how this goes.”


Catholic board reviewing its scheduling


The Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board is not so far slated to be affected. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association hammers out agreements with school boards that are separate from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.


“We actually weren’t consulted in the decision that Bluewater made,” says Bruce Grey Catholic board spokesperson Doreen Rogers.


The Catholic board currently has a similar scheduling set-up as Bluewater.


“We were planning to stay status quo,” she says. “We have to look at all the components and figure out what’s going to be the best for the students.”