Edmonton Public Schools’ 2023-24 school year will not include more time on religious holidays unless the province adjusts the temporary testing schedule.
the school Calendar It was approved Tuesday, but only after multiple amendments were voted down.
The amendments are consistent with the board’s goal of making the school calendar more inclusive by including days of religious significance.
Seven holidays have been requested by the public, and the school division hopes to include five additional holidays in the future. Two of the celebrations under consideration, Diwali/Bandi Chor Diwas and Lunar New Year fall on weekends that year.
Superintendent Darrell Robertson said a letter has been sent to the Ministry of Education about the other two dates included in the province’s 2023-24 exam schedule.
Eid-ul-Fitr falls on April 10 during Provincial Achievement Examinations and Eid-ul-Adha falls on June 17 during Diploma Examinations.
“I have received a letter from the ministry… they will consider our feedback while finalizing the diploma exam schedule,” Robertson said.
He said Brooks’ community has also asked the province about those dates. The final exam schedule is expected in the fall and the board may adjust the calendar slightly to include Eid holidays based on a decision from the province.
The board also discussed making September 25, 2023 a holiday to mark the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
Trustees had discussed making it a non-instructional day rather than a scheduled professional development day, allowing staff and students to celebrate. The trustees decided to leave the date as a professional development day.
Board chair Trisha Estabrooks said the Alberta School Boards Association is keeping a close eye on discussions about school holidays.
“Let’s hope this decision today builds some momentum,” Estabrooks said.
“Trustees across the province know that these are some of the steps we’re taking and they’re interested in what we’re doing.”
In 2020, the board decided to cut five instructional days from the calendar for budgetary reasons, prompting some to argue that certain dates of religious significance should be marked as holidays.
Five additional holidays worked in the 2021-22 academic year, but they did not coincide with significant dates.
In a recent division-wide survey, more than 75 percent of students said the extra vacation days this year were good for them. About 55 percent of employees said they liked holidays, while only 38 percent of family respondents liked days off.
About 35 to 40 percent of family respondents cited career implications or child care difficulties as a negative aspect of additional leave.
The 178 instructional days in the school calendar require a balance of many factors, including provincial and federal labor legislation, Alberta education requirements, board policies and regulations, and collective agreements with employees.
While feedback generally supported timing for important dates, there was less support for mid-week holidays. Students returning to school before September did not receive much support from families.
The division has created a multi-faith calendar, which is being utilized this academic year and continues to be developed.
In addition, the Education Act allows parents to exclude their children from school without academic penalty for religious reasons.