Maple Ridge trustees debate balanced calender for all schools

Could year-round schooling be in the future for more local schools?

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Board of Education voted to adopt a two-week spring break at their regular board meeting last week, but much of the talk around the board table centered on the benefits of moving towards balanced year-round school calendar.

“That calendar makes a lot more sense when you are coming from the teaching and learning perspective,” said superintendent Jan Unwin. “I hope we do go in that direction someday.”

A balanced calendar, like that currently in place at Kanaka Creek elementary, can offer students a more stable learning environment, and result in better retention of information, says board chair Ken Clarkson.

“To me, it makes the most sense, educationally,” he said.

The current school year model, with more than two months off during the summer, has been in place for more than a century, and was developed when children were needed to help with the harvest on the family farm.

“It’s a hold-out from an out-dated agrarian society,” Unwin said in a previous interview. “But I’m not sure people are ready for that kind of change just yet.”

Trustee Eleanor Palis said she felt the move to adopt a two-week spring break and create a four-day weekend in November was the first step towards a more balanced calendar.

“Moving towards a balanced calendar makes sense to me, and if this is the first step, then great,” she said.

However, trustee Stepan Vdovine said he doesn’t see the move to a two-week spring break as being a stepping stone on the path to a balanced calendar, merely a cost-saving measure in tight budgetary times.

If such a move were to be made, first and foremost, parents would have to be on board.

“There’s educational evidence that it’s a good thing, but you don’t want to do it overnight,” Vdovine said after the meeting. “I think everyone at the board table has a fairly progressive view, it’s a matter of how fast we do that.

“But you need buy-in from the public.”

As a result of the province’s collective bargaining agreement with teachers, school districts are limited in how they can allocate class time during the summer months.

Trustee Susan Carr suggested lobbying the government to change that.

“Summer is the real place people want to see a change,” she said.

CUPE Local 703 vice president Susanne Bonny, who represents support workers in the school district, said employees also favour a balanced calendar model.