The New Frontiers School Board is reacting positively to a $300 million catch-up plan recently announced by the provincial government.
Education Minister Bernard Drainville has confirmed that the government will not cancel March break, and the school year will not be extended to make up for time lost during public sector strikes last November and December.
Instead, Drainville outlined plans to help balance things between those who missed 23 days of school, those who lost nine days, and students in the private system who did not miss any classes. The plans include voluntary tutoring during school hours, support outside of school hours, free summer school, funds for community groups that provide homework programs or literacy aids, and help during spring break.
The plan also resorts to several measures that were put in place during the pandemic to limit the impact of absenteeism on final grades. End-of-year exams will be delayed by a few days and the weight of these assessments will be diminished. Students, especially those in secondary four and five, will only be tested on essential learnings in each subject.
There is also an option for school service centres and boards to delay the preparation of March report cards to the end of the month.
“We need to do everything that we can, to help the students to catch up and overcome the delays in the teaching and learning that they have suffered due to the strike,” said Drainville, who suggested there are ways to “make it almost a normal year.”
Drainville added he was very confident that there will be a “great mobilization” within the school networks between administration, teachers, support staff, and parents to work together to help their students.
NFSB looks ahead
“We are pleased that the government will be providing us with funding to support a plan,” said NFSB director general Michael Helm, who noted he is especially content that the ministry is allowing school boards and service centres the flexibility to develop plans to suit the needs of their students.
“This is indeed an unfortunate situation we all find ourselves in – especially for our students,” said Helm. He added that the government’s modifications to the weighting of final exams, the focus of final evaluations, and the possibility to extend the second term will be helpful.
The NFSB has met with the directorate to begin the planning process. Helm explained the goal is to quickly establish a rough draft that will then be used to consult with different stakeholders and partners, before finalizing the approach to the remainder of the school year.
The board has since launched an interactive ThoughtExchange survey to allow parents and members of the community to provide input regarding additional instructional support for children who may be struggling due to the lost school days. The questions touch specifically on the timing of tutorial sessions, and whether these should be done virtually or in person. At least 419 individuals have participated in some way in this survey, with over 321 thoughts having been shared. The survey will close at midnight on January 25.
Still some uncertainty
As the NFSB and the Centre de services scolaire de la Vallée-des-Tisserands work to find ways to help students, the different public sector unions representing teachers, support staff, and educational professionals will be meeting over the next three weeks to vote on contract agreements negotiated with the government in late December.
Nick Ross, the president of the Chateauguay Valley Teachers Association, has confirmed that its members, for whom information sessions were given on January 17 and 18, will gather for a special general meeting on January 24 to vote on the proposals.
Support staff members of the Syndicat des employées et employés professionnels et de bureau (SEPB 576) will meet on January 31 in Howick to decide whether to approve the agreement in principle reached with the government.
Teachers working for the Centre de services scolaire de la Vallée-des-Tisserands who are members of the Syndicat de Champlain met virtually on January 22 to vote on the agreements, while support staff will meet on January 29.