Legal News

Government proposes amendments to the School Act

On April 26, 2012, the provincial government tabled legislation to amend the School Act.

Bill 36, the School Amendment Act 2012 addresses three issues relating to flexibility for boards of education in providing educational programs to students.

First, the Amendment Act would change the emphasis in the legislation regarding school calendars from standardized calendars to local calendars. Currently, the Ministry sets a standard school calendar through regulation and boards have the option of applying the standard school calendar or setting a local school calendar which differs from the standard school calendar, provided the local school calendar meets the minimum number of required minutes of instruction in the school year. Under the Amendment Act, there would no longer be a standard school calendar and boards would be required to set their own school calendars. The Ministry will still set the minimum number of hours of instruction required in the school year, as well as rules about the type of information the local school calendar must contain.

Second, the Amendment Act provides greater flexibility for students to enrol in distributed learning programs. Currently, students in grades 10 to 12 may enrol in distributed learning programs as well as regular classroom programs. The new changes would extend this ability to students from k-12 and expressly permits enrolling in such programs both within and outside their school district.

Third, the Amendment Act would amend the School Act to expressly refer to International Baccalaureate programs as a category of program for which a school district may charge fees. The fees must relate to the direct costs incurred by the board in providing the program that are additional to the cost of providing a standard educational program. Districts offering the IB program would be required to ensure the program meets general requirements for graduation and would also be required to continue to offer standard educational programs in the school district. Any district wishing to charge fees for the IB program must also establish policies and procedures to facilitate participation by students whose parents may not be able to afford the fees.

The majority of the amendments in Bill 36, if passed, would take effect July 1, 2012 and any changes contemplated to the school year would not take effect before the 2013/2014 school year.

Bill 36 received first reading on April 26, 2012. Bill 36 can be found here