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Eight parents to be on calendar committee

A committee to develop a 12-month school calendar for New Westminster will have 16 stakeholder representatives. That total doesn’t include the board trustees and district staff that will be appointed to it.

The province has eliminated the traditional 10-month calendar and is now requiring districts to come up with a year-round calendar. The Ministry of Education has also moved up the deadline for districts to submit their calendars to March 31 from May 31.

At a board committee of the whole meeting last Tuesday, superintendent John Woudzia proposed to establish a committee to look at whether or not to keep the current 10-month school year, move to year-round education or include other options such as increasing spring break from one to two weeks.

He proposed including on the committee two parents, along with two representatives each from the teacher, school administrator and support staff employee groups.

But after more than an hour of discussion, the board decided to include eight parents, four representing elementary students, two from middle school and two from New Westminster secondary. In addition, the business community and the city’s parks and recreation department will also be invited to send a representative.

Woudzia said his proposed makeup mirrored those of committees in other districts in the Lower Mainland. But trustee Casey Cook said it would have meant parents and students, who make up the vast majority of those affected, would be underrepresented.

Trustee MaryAnn Mortensen, who proposed the amendment to include the extra representatives, said if the committee couldn’t get the work done in time for this year she would be comfortable with submitting a calendar that retains the status quo for 2013-14. She got support from Cook, trustee Lisa Graham and board chair Michael Ewen for her motion.

Despite the added parent involvement, district parent advisory council interim chair Wendy Harris questioned why such a large committee was necessary.

“How are you going to get that balance? It’s going to be chaos,” Harris told the board.

Harris suggested the district simply put together a calendar and then put it out for public and stakeholder discussion.

Trustees Jonina Campbell and David Phelan did not support Mortensen’s motion.

“The intention is good, but it’s impossible to include everything,” said Campbell. “It’s not possible to include everyone, which is why we have the consultation process.”

In making her motion, Mortensen suggested including business and parks department representatives because they could be affected by a two-week spring break if the district decides to go that route.

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