New Westminster to look at changing school calendar


Hed: New West to look at changing school calendar

Subhed: Committee to be struck to look at pros and cons of going year-round


Grant Granger

New Westminster will take a long look at whether it's worthwhile to change its school calendar.

The board of education, voting at its education committee meeting Tuesday, decided to strike a committee to exam the pros and cons to adjusting the school calendar in light of recent legislation introduced by the provincial government allowing local districts to go to year-round classes if they want to.

The committee will be made up of all stakeholder groups including trustees, administration, parents, and unions.

Board vice-chair Michael Ewen, who introduced the motion, said he has done some research on the subject and he feels it's worth exploring.

"I'm just not convinced too much at all that two months off in summer makes any sense whatsoever," said Ewen, who admitted such a view may not be popular. "I've already got the message from some of the students, that some of the older kids really rely on those summer months to make some money. It will be an interesting discussion."

As a teacher himself, Ewen has done research on the benefits and drawbacks of splitting holidays, for example, into three one-month breaks instead of a long summer break, and shorter ones at Christmas and in the spring.

"I've read it makes more sense to go in the direction to having shorter breaks, particularly for young kids those two months off in the summer, there's some significant loss, and you're losing part of September just getting them back to where they were," he said.

Once the board has an idea of where the community wants to go the district should sit down with all the others in the Metro Vancouver area because so much of the issue crosses boundaries.

"I think the concern is if we get a checkerboard where some kids are at some times and some kids off at other times. There would be some real value to having some Lower Mainland consistency," said Ewen. "One of the drawbacks in the Lower Mainland is if we get a really hot July we have no air conditioning in the schools and it could be stifling hot. But that can happen in September as well."

Ewen, however, also pointed out both CUPE, which represents support workers, and the B.C. Teachers' Federation opposes year-round schooling.

"No one is suggesting we cut the number of holiday days, just suggesting we would reconfigure it," said Ewen.

The committee will be asked to report back to the board by Feb. 1, 2013.

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