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Maple Ridge school board puts off school calendar changes

Any tweaks or radical changes to the calendar in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows district will likely have to wait another full school year.

The local school board approved a calendar for the 2013-2014 year that looks much like the current one – including a two-week spring break, March 14 to March 30.

New regulations from the Education Ministry set out the minimum number of instructional hours a district must provide students. Kindergarten students must be in class 853 hours, grades 1-7 for 878 hours, and grades 8-12 for 952 hours.

However, it does not set out a minimum number of instructional days, which allows boards more flexibility in how the calendar is arranged.

The board will ask for public input, and parents and board employees in particular must be allowed to comment on the calendar, said director of instruction Laurie Meston.

The new calendar is to posted on the board’s website (www.sd42.ca), and will remain there until March 1. Comments can be posted directly on the site, and they will be taken under advisement.

By not making changes this year, “we will have lots of time to engage in conversation,” said superintendent Jan Unwin, noting there are tight deadlines to have the education ministry approve next year’s calendar.

Meston said there are numerous possible calendars the board can look at. For example, the summer could be shortened from nine weeks off to seven, and breaks lengthened to three weeks at both Christmas and Spring Break. This is often referred to as a balanced calendar.

She said there is research showing that a long summer break is a disadvantage in education, requiring more review time the following year. Special needs students, in particular, can have retention problems exacerbated by the traditional summer vacation.

The balanced calendar Kanaka Creek elementary has a summer vacation of only five weeks.

However, the school will close for a month-long winter break on Dec. 6, and for a month-long spring break on March 28, 2014.

The Langley school district announced last week that it is considering a year-round model for the entire district, and is in public consultation.

West Vancouver has also been considering that option.

“People love the Kanaka calendar,” said Meston, “but it may not be right for the whole district.”

Parents will notice a slight variation in the calendar in September, as on the 23rd and 24th there will be  district-wide non-instructional days.

Meston explained that the district was able to book renowned author and lecturer Alfie Kohn for professional development at that time.

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