The provincial government removed a roadblock last week for school districts looking to move towards a year-round model of schooling by eliminating the provincial standard school calendar.
But Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district superintendent Jan Unwin says there’s no rush to move towards a balanced, year-round school calendar just yet.
Bill 36 eliminates the standard school calendar, allowing school districts to more easily implement their own calendar, potentially offering creative scheduling options, such as year-round schooling. The Ministry of Education will continue to set a minimum number of instructional hours per school year, however.
“Enabling greater flexibility and choice is a key component of B.C.’s Education Plan, and these amendments to the School Act will provide school districts with additional tools to support personalized learning,” said education minister George Abbott.
While school districts were previously free to alter the province’s school calendar as they wished, not having a provincial standard gives school districts more autonomy in determining their own school calendar.
Abbott cited Maple Ridge’s Kanaka Creek Elementary School as an example of a successful year-round schooling model, one that could serve as model to other districts.
Unwin characterized the traditional school calendar, which sees students taking eight or nine weeks off over summer months, as being a relic of an age when students were required to work on family farms, and not in the best interest of education.
“This is how it’s been done for hundreds of years, and it hasn’t changed,” she said.
Under the traditional school calendar, much of September is spent reviewing material forgotten by students over the summer months. With year-round schooling, students can more easily retain what they have learned.
“You don’t really have a start and end to the school year, there’s just a natural progression,” Unwin said. “After all, learning isn’t compartmentalized like that.”
At Kanaka Creek elementary, Unwin said teachers don’t have to spend as much time reviewing last year’s material with students.
“When teachers get to Kanaka, they never want to leave,” she said. “They love teaching that model.”
However, Unwin said she doesn’t believe there is an appetite to move towards a district-wide year-round schooling, just yet.
“The Kanaka model isn’t for everyone,” she said. “But it is an option that works well for some parents.”
Given the success of Kanaka Creek elementary’s year-round program, Unwin said it makes sense to expand the model to the secondary level, and Thomas Haney Secondary School would be the natural place for that to happen. However, any decision to move towards a year-round model at the school would need the support of administrators, teachers, and of course students and parents.
“It will be a long slow process,” Unwin said. “But we have to float these ideas.”
Other changes to the School Act on Thursday will allow students in kindergarten through Grade 9 to take a mix of online and traditional school courses to students. Currently, only students in Grades 10 to 12 have this option.
The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Board of Education passed their 2012/13 school calendar on Wednesday, which features a two-week spring break.