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Ottawa French Catholic school board piloting four-day week at two schools

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Elementary students at two Ottawa French Catholic schools will soon have the option to go to school four days a week.

The Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est has announced plans for a four-day school week pilot-project this fall, becoming the first school board in Ontario to offer families a shortened school week schedule.

Parents of students at École élémentaire catholique l’Étoile-de-l’Est in Orleans and École élémentaire catholique Saint-Rémi in Kanata will be allowed to opt-in to a four-day school week.

Students enrolled in the four-day school week would begin classes one week earlier than students attending classes five days a week and the school year would end three days later than the typical school year. Each school day would last an additional 38 minutes compared to students attending classes five days a week.

"Well-being is one of the CECCE’s core values; this initiative aims to support the well-being of students, their families and staff, and to foster school-life balance," the CECCE said in a statement.

"The CECCE believes this pilot project can benefit students and staff in many ways. For example, it will enable them 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 CECCE's director of education says a four-day school week has been studied with examples of other schools in the United States and Europe.

"They were very appreciated by the community, it allowed for better life-school-work balance," Marc Bertrand said.

"It also had other important impacts, such as increasing attendance whether it be for students and staff, a lot of them were being able to take appointments or participate in sports activities on that day off."

Bertrand says the four-day school week is also an opportunity to attract education professionals to its schools.

“A lot of companies and corporations are offering a compressed work week to their staff, as well as municipalities that have taken this position as of lately."

Parent Eric Brière, a member of the CECCE parent council, says he will have to discuss a possible 4-day school week with his girls and spouse.

"Definitely, some parents in the school will want to benefit from it, especially families who have a lot of hockey tournaments throughout the year and they’re already missing a lot of school," Brière said.

"One of our concerns for the parents council was that this was not imposed but I think for some families this will fit very well within their schedules and will allow kids to do something else on a Friday.”

Student participation in the four-day school week will be voluntary, and families whose children attend the schools can decide if they want to enrol in the four-day pilot project or stay with the conventional five-day school week.

The CECCE is hosting information sessions for parents on March 27 at 6:30 p.m.

"Our next step is to ask families that are interested and we’ll look at that data and decide how many grade levels we can offer it at and how many groups we’ll have. We could have two thirds of the community but we could also have none in a certain grade," Bertrand said.

"The objective down the road is to possibly expand it to other schools - elementary or even secondary."

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