SD43 trustees concerned about balanced school calendar

A four-year B.C. experiment on offering graduated adults free schooling has ended with the province paring back the number of courses offered for free. - TRI-CITY NEWS
A four-year B.C. experiment on offering graduated adults free schooling has ended with the province paring back the number of courses offered for free.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS

Year-round schooling or a balanced calendar won't be coming to School District 43 anytime soon after trustees said the idea could raise a host of problems.

The province is proposing Bill 36, which will give districts more flexibility in how they organize school calendars. But Tri-City trustees said scheduling shorter but more frequent breaks throughout the year could be a hassle for parents who have students in different districts. Complications for sports and cultural groups could also arise, trustees said.

While reducing the length of the summer break could help vulnerable students retain more learning, according to SD43 superintendent Tom Grant, trustees expressed concerns about the cost of keeping schools cool with air conditioners during summer heat waves.

"What has really changed that will allow us to start sending staff to do research?" said Port Coquitlam Trustee Judy Shirra, the acting board chair, who said the district looked at the idea years ago.

But one trustee said the school district shouldn't give up on the idea entirely. Coquitlam's Diane Sowden said a single high school, for example, should be allowed to change to a balanced calendar if that is the choice of staff, teachers and parents.

"I think we do need to look at it," said Sowden, who said that offering more choice in the way school calendars are organized fits with the district's plan for personalized learning.

Grant agreed that changing the school calendar would have to be a "community engagement" exercise and he said research suggests decisions shouldn't be made for educational reasons because there is no evidence that changing the school calendar has educational benefits, except for students with learning challenges.

Still, he told trustees they will have to deal with these issues for the next several months as the province moves to give districts more flexibility in how they operate. For example, districts will now be able to offer online courses to students in kindergarten to Grade 9 and charge fees for international baccalaureate programs. Currently, the district has online courses for high school students and home-schoolers, and only charges exam fees for IB courses.

"You're going to have to get your head around it and give [staff] direction as to which ones you want brought to the table," Grant said.

Shirra agreed that the changes fit in with the district's move towards personalized learning and said she expected more information will come in the fall.

The district's personalized learning program, called Learning Without Boundaries, has been stalled because of teachers' job action and Shirra said it can't move forward without all groups coming to the table.


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