Consultation needed on balanced school calendars

B.C. government to allow schools to change their school calendars. - THINKSTOCK.COM
B.C. government to allow schools to change their school calendars.
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Changes to the school calendar won't come without a lot of consultation, says superintendent Tom Grant, after the province announced plans to scrap the standard school-year calendar.

The changes won't come into effect until the 2013-2014 school year, but boards of education will be able to decide how long and how frequent breaks should be as long the traditional number of instructional days is maintained.

Although the balanced calendar will make it easier for some parents to schedule holidays and will provide teachers and students with  longer winter and spring breaks it would likely result in a shorter summer break.

And Grant said the jury is out on the educational benefits of such a move. "If you go to a balanced calendar 50% (of the research) is positive and 50% says it doesn't make a difference."

"If you look at calendars from a teaching and learning perspective, it's hard to say which is the best. In the end you come down to good teachers influence good learning," Grant said.

He said the district would have to do a lot of analysis and consultation before making such a change "because it effects everybody."

A balanced school calendar, otherwise known as year-round schooling, is based on a balance of instructional days and school breaks over a period of 12 months. Although schools would have to maintain the same instructional hours as a traditional school year, they could distribute breaks more evenly throughout the year.

Richmond, Langley and Vancouver school districts have experimented with balanced calendars in various configurations, such as a longer winter and spring break with a shorter, month-long summer break.

The province is also planning to allow students in kindergarten to Grade 9 take some of their courses online. Grant said the idea would take some studying to figure out how to implement it.

Currently, younger homeschooled students can take some of their courses online, but the district's new Inquiry Hub is for Grade 8 through 12.



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