Summer school is essential. But it’s not required.

Something interesting happened yesterday. Remedial summer school was declared an essential service by the Labour Relations Board. This means that it cannot be cancelled – even though attending remedial summer school is in no way mandatory.

Chew on that for a second. Going to summer school if you’ve failed a class isn’t required. But it’s required that summer schools runs. Even though the kids don’t have to go.

And, not only do students not need to attend summer school when it’s offered, but not all school districts even offer it.

So, when it comes down to it, a service that doesn’t require attendance and isn’t accessible to many of BC’s students has been declared so important that cancelling it just can’t be done. Yet there’s no guarantee of attendance, and some kids can’t attend even if they want to.

That’s kind of interesting. It does make a nice argument for additional funding so all districts the opportunity to run summer school in the future. But I digress.

The provisions that go along with this ruling are equally interesting. Or confusing. Or both.

1. Only remedial (that is, for students who have failed and need to repeat the course) classes for grades 10-12 are considered essential. Even though grade 12 courses aren’t offered in remedial summer school. And grade 10 and 11 grades are inaccurate due to the previous LRB rulings on providing grades. So there are major questions about who has actually passed or failed.

2. Remedial summer school is normally just under four weeks long. The school districts that are still offering summer school have already pushed the start date back by three days. But they’re keeping the end date the same. So, they’ve basically turned remedial summer school into a three-week class. And the LRB order says nothing about course lengths, so while it’s mandatory to have remedial summer school, there’s no requirement for actual instructional time.
Edit: I’ve had a report that at least one district is planning to lengthen each day to compensate for the lost time, but I can’t find a source to confirm this. I based the original point off of this release, which clearly states that the end date will not be moved and makes no mention of extending class hours. So…more confusion.

3. Summer school is apparently essential for those students who can’t take the course during the next school year. But in most cases, students should be able to take the course the next year. It’s very common to have students repeat a course in a regular semester class because, again, summer school attendance isn’t mandatory. And, in the rare cases where the class just doesn’t fit into the student’s schedule, night school and online courses are available. Ideal? No. But also completely in line with the Liberal’s BC Education Plan.

4. Classes must be taught by “exempt” staff: this means administrators – the official term for principals and vice-principals. Now, this in itself isn’t a terrible thing. Administrators are certified teachers. They have classroom experience. They have specialty subjects like the rest of us.

Or they did.

I have no doubt that most administrators were effective teachers. As far as training and personality go, they should be able to step back into a classroom and, well, teach.

But many have been out of the classroom for a number of years. I’m betting that most gave away their binders of course materials when they became administrators, meaning that they have nothing prepped for teaching. In additional, the curriculum for many courses has changed over the last decade, meaning that that LRB is expecting people to step in and teach courses that some of them have never seen before. With less than a week to prep for them.

Teachers tend to throw around that word “prep” a lot, so let’s take a second to talk about what that actually means. It’s short for “preparation,” and there’s a lot of that in teaching. Prep includes figuring out which concepts will be taught on which day, and scheduling it so you finish within the time-frame – and rejigging it when some concepts take longer to grasp than you’d been anticipating. It includes deciding how you will actually teach the material: games, lectures, PowerPoints, practice questions, discussions? All of those need to be found or created. Prep also includes making tests and quizzes, creating projects and, eventually, marking all of the work.

So, the LRB is expecting Admin to do all of this for remedial summer school. In addition to whatever work they’re typically doing at this time of year. And the ruling has made it pretty difficult for them to get out of it – if qualified administrators can’t be found in the district offering remedial summer school, they have to recruit admin from other cities. There’s really no way that these classes won’t be taught by principals and vice-principals.

As such, the admin in some districts are expected to revert to their teaching personas for a summer, while others aren’t. Because many districts don’t even offer remedial summer school. Even though it’s apparently now essential that they do so. But only for grades 10-12. When grade 12 courses aren’t even offered. And students don’t have to attend.

So, remedial summer school this year will be attended by students who may or may not actually have to be there. It will be taught by administrators who haven’t taught in years. Who will be teaching courses that they’re unprepared for. But the classes will only last three weeks. And this is apparently for the benefit of the students.

But, as is becoming far too common, it just makes me shake my head.