Year-round schooling may start in Vancouver next year

Superintendent notes 'old agricultural, industrial-based calendar'

The Vancouver School Board could launch a year-round school pilot project at several city schools as early as 2012/13, according to superintendent Steve Cardwell.

Last year, trustees asked the districts calendar committee to examine if educational advantages exist in having whats known as a balanced calendar, which involves lengthening the school year, shortening the summer break and adding longer breaks between sessions.

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Several schools in B.C.including Richmonds Spulukwuks elementary, Maple Ridges Kanaka Creek elementary, Langleys Douglas Park community school, and Glendale elementary in Williams Lakeoffer year-round schools.

We have not worked out what schools [would be involved] at this point, but weve been talking about the balanced school calendaryear-round schoolsfor a year or so now and believe that the old agricultural, industrial-based calendar that currently exists with long summers may not necessarily be the right thing for everyone, Cardwell told the Courier. We want to give another choice to parents and students. We are aware Maple Ridge and Richmond have schools with a balanced-year calendar and they have long lineups or waiting lists to get in and we think we should be looking at the same concept.

Cardwell promised extensive consultation with parents and staff at schools that are considered for the pilot, including surveys and discussions about the structure of the calendar.

We have about 16,000 students taking summer school every year and its not just remedial anymore, he said. Students are actually going to school during summer, so theres obviously a very strong interest among parents and students.

Cardwell expects at least three schools, located across the district, will be involved. Theyll likely be evaluated over three years to determine advantages and disadvantages and whether such a calendar should be adopted districtwide.

Youd want it in place for several years. Youve got to live through it and monitor and evaluate it on a regular basisget feedback on how its working, so wed probably look at something thats say over three years and consider how its going at that point, he said.

Elementary schools will likely be chosen for the experiment, but Cardwell said the district wouldnt rule out the possibility of a secondary school if one were interested.

Grandview/?uuqinakuuk elementary on the citys East Side considered a balanced calendar in 2003, but the idea was dropped by the then COPE-dominated school board, which faced pressure from unions opposed to the idea, former principal Caroline Krause told the Courier in 2010.

Cardwell said hes not sure if Grandview is still interested.

I have no idea which schools might come forward and I dont know the history of what happened before, but I do know youd need pretty strong parent support for this and, of course, staff supportso lots of discussion.

Consultation needs to start at prospective pilot schools this fall in order for the board to make a decision early next year in time for implementation in the 2012/13 school year, although the teachers job action might affect that timeline.

Its unclear what financial impact a year-round schedule would have on the district, although expenses such as the cost of air conditioning in schools in the heat of summer will need to be determined.

noconnor@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Naoibh

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