Ministry rejects Ottawa school board plan for 4-day week

An Ottawa-area school board said it would not move to a four-day schedule at two of its elementary schools this fall after Ontario’s Education Ministry refused to approve the plan.

In March, the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE) announced the pilot project would begin this fall at École élémentaire catholique l’Étoile-de-l’Est in Orléans and École élémentaire catholique Saint-Rémi in Kanata, pending ministry approval.

Under the proposed schedule, students would begin their school year one week earlier and end three days later, and spend an extra 38 minutes a day in class to make up for the fifth day.

“It will enable [students and staff] to spend quality time with family, focus on their passions, participate in recreational activities, go to appointments, pursue their studies, engage in personal projects or simply rest,” the board said at the time, noting the new schedule would have been the first of its kind in Ontario and one of very few in North America.

In an email to parents and guardians on Friday, however, the French Catholic board’s director of education Marc Bertrand said the plan had been shelved.

“Despite the steps taken since the fall of 2022 by the administration, and the presentation of the many benefits documented by scientific research, the school calendar proposed by the CECCE has not been approved by the ministry for the 2023-2024 school year,” Bertrand wrote in French.

‘Hoping for reconsideration’

He added to the board is “hoping for consideration” to launch the pilot in time for the 2024-25 school year.

“The administration remains convinced that this innovative project would benefit the well-being of many students and staff members, and bring a balance between the personal and academic lives of many families while pursuing the board’s mission of providing quality education in French,” he wrote.

Bertrand noted a “large number” of parents supported the plan and had hoped to enroll their children in the pilot project this fall. That interest “has shown us that this new schedule model meets the needs of many families in our school communities,” he wrote.

A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Education said in an email the ministry believes students should continue to learn in school five days a week with a “focus on improving reading, writing and math, and expanding mental health supports.”

CBC has reached out to the CECCE for further comment.

In a statement following the board’s original announcement in March, a spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the ministry’s position was that students should be in school five days a week both for their learning and their mental health.

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