The Edmonton Public Schools board of trustees Tuesday approved an “inclusive” 2023-24 school year calendar, which focuses on seven days of cultural interest.
The proposed calendar successfully satisfies five of the seven days being considered. This will be the second year in a row that public students in Edmonton will have National Native Day and the summer solstice.
In addition to National Indigenous Day and Summer Solstice, in 2023-24 the students will also have Yom Kippur, Diwali, Bandi Chhor Divas and Lunar New Year free from school.
Board chairman Trisha Estabrooks said the idea was put forward by the community a few years ago.
“They came forward with seven key days and we were able to accommodate five, which I think demonstrates our board’s continued commitment to become a more anti-racist and more inclusive school division,” Estabrooks said during a media briefing after 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 is left to the province.
Edmonton Public Schools has asked the government to move those exam dates so Edmontonians can celebrate Eid.
“We truly believe that children and families should not have to choose between going to school and celebrating their faith days,” she said.
“So it’s really encouraging to see some of the feedback we’ve had from 16,000 parents of the department and families, as well as students and staff who have expressed a willingness to be open to it.”
Estabrooks said she remains optimistic that the government will work with them on this request and that it is a step for schools in Edmonton to become “more anti-racist and inclusive”.
“I am optimistic that the government will hear from us about this, and not just from us, but from the thousands of parents and families. I received handwritten letters today from Queen Elizabeth High School children asking us to pay attention to this, that we reflect their belief in our school calendar,” Estabrooks said.
In a statement Monday night, Katherine Stavropoulos, press secretary to the Secretary of Education, said Alberta Education has received a request from Edmonton Public Schools to consider a revised graduation schedule in 2024. She added that 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 by November 2022.
“The Alberta government respects the diversity of cultures, heritages and beliefs 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 that unless diploma exams are canceled due to “extenuating circumstances,” they will be 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 a different session, if they have a conflict or want to participate in a religious celebration,” Stavropoulos said.
The next Edmonton Public Schools board meeting is scheduled for June 21.