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Arrow Lakes School Board adopts personal digital device policy

Student guidelines on cell phones
School District #10 (Photo by: Carmen Petrie)

Rachael Lesosky

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

School District 10 is rolling out its new Personal Digital Devices policy, which establishes guidelines on student use of cell phones at school. The policy will be implemented beginning in the fall.

In January, the Province announced new safety initiatives which include a requirement for school districts to have cell phone policies in place by the start of next school year. The goal is to limit use to support student learning through fewer distractions and interruptions during class time.

Each district board can create a plan that suits their unique community needs, and it will be up to school administrators to incorporate the policy into their schools’ codes of conduct.

“It was designed to be flexible… while still giving a little bit of a rubric under which administrators and teachers can apply some restrictions on cell phone use in the classroom,” said Secretary-Treasurer Michael McLellan.

Under the new policy, using personal digital devices during school hours will be prohibited for K-7 students, with the exception of emergencies, accessibility, accommodation, or medical purposes under school staff supervision.

For students in grades 8 to 12, devices will be prohibited during instructional time. Teachers may give consent for instructional or digital literacy purposes, or for emergency, accessibility, accommodation, medical, health, or equity purposes. During non-instructional time – such as breaks and lunch periods – students may use devices at the discretion of school administrators.

While the board as a whole supported the policy, Chair Steve Gascon still had some concerns.

“When students can no longer check their notifications in class, will breaks and lunch periods become phone time?” he said.

Trustee Amanda Murphy echoed Gascon’s worries that not being able to check their phones during class may cause students to overcompensate while on breaks.

“If we’re noticing that it is just a flooding out of class to get to their phones, then I think there’s some things that schools can do to address this,” said Superintendent Peter Dubinsky.

The way the policy is written allows school administrators to adapt and refocus how they are implementing it, he said.

“We can come back and share what we’re observing about student behaviour, even having some focus groups with students and having some conversations, and go from there… Let’s see how it happens.”

Student self-report surveys

Superintendent Peter Dubinsky shared data from the student self-report health surveys.

The data comes from the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) for children in grades 4 to 7, and the Adolescent Health Survey (AHS) for grades 8 to 12. Students complete the MDI survey every year, while the AHS is completed every five years.

“Data from this year’s MDI provides important information for teachers, schools, and the district to help meet the needs of students,” Dubinsky wrote in his report.

The MDI survey tracks social and emotional development, physical health and well-being, connectedness, use of out-of-school time, and school experiences.

39% of grade 4 students self-reported high well-being, and 17% reported low well-being. 21% of grade 7 students reported high well-being, and 46% reported low well-being.

The MDI also gathers data about self-regulation, responsible decision making, and self-awareness.

Another important data point, said Dubinsky, is the number of important adults in students’ lives. 87% of grade 4 students and 81% of grade 7 students report having two or more important adults.

Using the data, the district can identify gaps and areas that require further attention. School connectedness and belonging, encouraging less screen time and better sleep hygiene, and learning how to seek help when needed are a few of the areas that need some work.

2024-2025 budget

Secretary Treasurer Michael McLellan presented the 2024-2025 budget.

Since March, the board has conducted various meetings and roundtables with partner groups and school staff, along with a public survey, to seek input on the budget.

The survey asked what investments, resources, or initiatives should be funded, in areas like student competency, health, environment, technology, facilities, and ‘dreaming big.’ 24 responses were submitted from parents/caregivers, teachers, support staff, administrators, and community members.

Overall revenues are set to increase by 3.6%. Enrolment revenues will increase by 1.6% despite a projected decrease from 519 to 509 full-time equivalent (FTE) students. The district will receive the new $60,600 Indigenous Education Council funding, and the new $25,000 Early Childhood Educator (ECE) Dual Credit Program funding. The $100,000 Affordability Fund will continue for one more year, and the Feeding Futures Fund will continue indefinitely, at $350,000 per annum. There will also be a major increase in childcare subsidies and childcare fees due to increased enrolment.

There will be some changes to the staffing plan. There will be a new Manager of Childcare, and a new Transportation / Occupational Health & Safety exempt manager position. There will also be a new 0.5/0.6 FTE Learning Technologies Helping Teacher position, and a 0.2 FTE Dual Credit/Careers Teacher liaison position (funded by the $25,000 Dual Credit fund). Distributed Learning (DL) teachers will get an increase of 0.2 FTE for a total of 1.4 FTE to support 43 full-time DL students. The teacher librarian position will get an additional 0.3 FTE to support literacy and district libraries. ECE staffing will increase by an hour for Strong Start programs, costing an additional $13,000.

Operating expenses will go up slightly for maintenance, grounds, and custodial work due to inflation. Utilities will increase from $253,000 to $275,000, and the Human Resources budget will increase from $76,000 to $80,000. Pro-D day budgets will receive a small increase in funds, with a notable addition of funding for CUPE employees. Transportation will decrease slightly partly due to more new efficient buses and reduced fuel costs from electric buses.

The Special Purpose Fund is stable and won’t be accounting for inflation. Funding for the Strong Start program can mostly cover the costs of the proposed increase in opening hours. The Feeding Futures Fund and Affordability Fund will pay for some food and supply costs. Seamless Day funding will cover any future losses from the Nakusp Early Learning Child Care Centre, which will hopefully be minimal after July 2024. The Seamless Day program is moving to Nakusp Elementary and the Nakusp Early Learning Child Care Centre after being at Burton Elementary for three years, due to low enrolment in kindergarten and after-school care in Burton. The program provides funding to have an Early Childhood Educator in the kindergarten class to assist, and to provide after-school care. This will be the last year of the $175,000 Early Learning Capacity Fund.

The Capital Fund will consist of $1,271,982 from the Ministry of Education and Child Care for new minor capital projects.