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No rush toward a balanced calendar: School district

Any parent worried that, by December, theyre going to be scrambling around for childcare need not fret.

Any parent worried that, by December, theyre going to be scrambling around for childcare need not fret.

Richmond School Districts superintendent, Monica Pamer, fully recognizes that any move to switch from the traditional school calendar to a balanced year-round schedule which could mean the whole of December on vacation is a dramatic shift in peoples lives.

And theres little chance of the district making sweeping changes this year, or even the next, until everyone in the community is fully consulted and their opinions are heard.

Any consultation will be quite a process and has to involve, not just parents and teachers, the whole community, said Pamer.

Were not about to run into a situation like this. We already have a committee that has been exploring this for the last three or four years.

In terms of when (the district will look into it further), I think well have to wait until the labour dispute clears up before we can really get into it. We have to make sure that everyone understands what it is first and look closely at the benefits and detriments. Its a slow, consultative process.

Pamer reiterated that the entire community needs to be a part of that process because everyone is geared to the traditional calendar, including all the support services.

Many people are also questioning if the switch, should it be made, will affect the entire school district.

However, both Pamer and school board chair Donna Sargent are steering toward the even bigger picture of a regional calendar shift.

I have spoken to a lot of the Metro Vancouver school districts and the feeling was that it would have to be all of us or none, said Sargent.

A lot of our staff live in Vancouver and Delta and have their kids in schools there, so we have to look at the bigger picture.

We also have a Metro committee of school trustees and weve been talking about this for some time. Were realizing that each district does not live alone.

Our approach has been very slow and I think that will continue.

Indeed, even when the time comes to dig deeper into the possibility of a timetable switch, a district-wide shift to a balanced calendar is not necessarily on the cards in the initial phase.

Richmond already has two schools on a form of balanced calendar Spulukwuks and Garden City elementaries which have the same number of days in school as traditional calendar schools, only the vacations differ.

Of the latter, Pamer explained that it was the Garden City school community that approached the district, not the other way around.

And that is how, in the first instance at least, the school district intends to approach the issue.

A lot of it will depend on whether other schools become interested in the idea, said Pamer.

Were going to adopt a wait and see policy. But well certainly be supportive of any school that does come forward.

In terms of the loss of learning theory a suggestion that students over a two-month summer break lose much of what they learned in the spring being thrust forth as one of the main reasons for changing calendars, the jury is still out for Pamer.

There has been a lot of research and some it suggests that (the balanced calendar) does help some students who were struggling before, she said.

But it wasnt conclusive for all of the kids.

Sargent agrees, adding that student achievement has to be the number one reason for making such a drastic change.

The research is still not clear that students would benefit from changing calendars, said Sargent.

We havent seen it happening at Spuluwuks and theyve had the calendar for some time; its still not clear.

Some parents and staff would like to switch, but this should be for the student and we have to make sure its best for all the students.

Referring to the balanced calendars month off in December, Sargent pointed out that not all families can take off to Mexico or the Bahamas in December; what are these families to do with a month off in December?

Nevertheless, the school district is cognizant of the manner in which students, parents and teachers have embraced the balanced calendars at both Spulukwuks and Garden City and its ready and waiting to spark the consultation process when the climate hits the right temperature.

At the two schools we do have, the parents and teachers all like it, Pamer said.

Theres a lot to talk about on this and thats good that we are talking about it again.

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