A Vancouver school district committee rejected part of a management recommendation that pinpointed a particular group of schools for a feasibility study on a balanced calendar, better known as year-round school.
Year-round school involves lengthening the school year, shortening the summer break and adding longer breaks between sessions.
Management proposed the feasibility study be done on the University Hill family of schools—a group that includes University Hill elementary school, a second elementary school that’s yet to be built on Acadia Road, and University Hill secondary school, which will soon move into the renovated National Research Council building at 4250 Wesbrook Mall.
The year-round schooling recommendation was one of 30 senior management team recommendations stemming from the district’s sectoral review of schools and services, which were presented at the VSB’s management coordinating meeting Monday.
But committee members concluded they want the district to be cautious, they don’t want anything imposed, they want to know more about the impact of a balanced calendar on vulnerable students, and they don’t want to put pressure on a particular family of schools, according to deputy superintendent Jordan Tinney.
The committee asked that the recommendation be modified to call for a more general report on the feasibility of establishing a balanced calendar in the district for any and all schools, as well as a report on the processes the board would need to follow should it wish to establish a balanced calendar.
“Overall, the board is curious, wants to know more, but wants to be very cautious in moving this forward,” Tinney told the Courier. “Trustees really want to know that if there is a movement in this direction that it comes from the grassroots and not from an imposition by the board.”
Committee chair Mike Lombardi agreed, explaining they don’t want to target a school or schools unless the board hears a significant desire for year-round school from that community. “We’ve not heard an outpouring of interest from [University Hill], so our view is, the trustees’ view is, we are interested in pursuing that idea where there’s an interested school community,” he said.
“If a school community shows that interest, then we’ll engage in a significant process to see whether or not they want to go there. But we haven’t had that indication. Basically, we said wherever that comes from in the district, we’re open to it but we’re not going to go launch something.”
Board chair Patti Bacchus said the board supports the concept of year-round school as long as parents, students and employee groups back the idea.
“The key is a major shift like this should really come from the school community, not from the school board… [it’s] not wanting to toss out something that could potentially be divisive in a community coming from the school board,” she said.
So what will happen if a school or group of schools doesn’t step forward and embrace the concept of year-round school?
“Then we have to respect that,” Bacchus said. “It’s a big change at a time when there’s a lot of instability, a lot of uncertainty in the system. For the school board to be putting pressure for change right now—I don’t think it’s the right time and I’m not convinced that we have the kind of research we need to support that it’s actually the right choice for any particular school.”