The board of trustees at Edmonton Public Schools approved an “inclusive” 2023-24 school year calendar on Tuesday that aims to address seven days of cultural significance.
The proposed calendar successfully addresses five of the seven days under consideration. This will be the second school year in a row Edmonton public students will have National Indigenous Day and summer solstice off.
In addition to National Indigenous Day and summer solstice, students will also have Yom Kippur, Diwali, Bandi Chhor Divas and Lunar New Year off from school in 2023-24.
Board chairwoman Trisha Estabrooks said the idea was brought forward by the community a couple years ago.
“They came forward with seven days of significance and we were able to accommodate five, which I think shows our board’s ongoing commitment to become a more anti-racist and more inclusive school division,” said Estabrooks during a media availability following Tuesday’s board meeting.
While five of the seven days have been accommodated by the division, Estabrooks said the two remaining requested days — Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha — fall on diploma exam dates and the decision to move those dates falls to the province.
Edmonton Public Schools has requested the government move those exam dates to allow Edmontonians to celebrate Eid.
“We believe, truly, that children and families shouldn’t have to choose between attending school and celebrating their faith days,” she said.
“So, it’s really encouraging to see some of the feedback that we got from 16,000 parents from the division and families as well as students and staff who indicated a willingness to be open to this.”
Estabrooks said she remains optimistic that the government will work with them on this request and that it’s a step for Edmonton schools to “more anti-racist and more inclusive.”
“I am optimistic that the government will hear us on this one, and not just hear us but hear from the thousands of parents and families. I’ve received hand-written letters from kids from Queen Elizabeth High School today who are asking we pay attention to this, that we reflect their faith in our school calendar,” said Estabrooks.
In a statement Monday evening, Katherine Stavropoulos, press secretary to the education minister, said Alberta Education has received Edmonton Public Schools’ request to consider a revised diploma schedule in 2024. She added the current exam schedule is still in draft form and the school board’s request will be considered as they work to finalize the schedule in November 2022.
“Alberta’s government respects the diverse range of cultures, heritages and faiths of students across the province. We appreciate the school division’s efforts to create an inclusive educational environment that accommodates diverse student populations,” she said.
Stavropoulos said unless diploma exams are cancelled due to “extenuating circumstances,” they are offered in every subject during every exam session in November, January, April, June and August.
“A student may choose to write the diploma exam during another session, should they have a conflict or wish to participate in a religious celebration,” said Stavropoulos.
The next Edmonton Public Schools board meeting is scheduled for June 21.