Year-round schooling turned down

Langley Board of Education agrees unanimously to stick with current school calendar.

Langley Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday night not to proceed with a calendar change that would see district schools move towards year-round schooling.

The board endorsed superintendent Suzanne Hoffman’s recommendation that the district continue with its current calendar, which sees schooling offered from the day following Labour Day until the end of June, with two-week breaks for Christmas and in the spring. Douglas Park Elementary will continue to operate on a modified calendar, with additional one-week breaks in November and May and school continuing until the second week of July.

The current calendar will stay in place until at least the end of the 2015-16 school year.

More than 7,400 people took part in the consultations over the proposed change, with many filling out surveys, responding by email or other social media or attending forums. Most of the interaction about the proposal was online, although there were individual meetings within schools, in addition to the two open houses. Students were also invited to engage in the process.

Of all those surveyed, 76 per cent favoured continuing with the status quo.

A key factor for many, and something acknowledged by the superintendent in her report, was the impact that a change in the school calendar in Langley would have on families’ other activities.

“Whilst staff saw this as an opportunity for an educational conversation, it quickly became apparent that education and personal circumstances were inseparable. Considering a calendar change was see as an intrusion into deeply rooted cultural norms and structures,” the report states.

The report also acknowledges that “there is a level of distrust of the board and district staff within the community.”

Board chair Wendy Johnson was pleased with the report and the unanimous backing from the board. She said it was the first major initiative from superintendent Hoffmann, and “she followed through and did everything she said she would, and then some.

“There were all kinds of opportunity to engage,” Johnson said.

School district communications manager Sandy Wakeling said Wednesday morning that comments were already coming in from parents, thanking the board for its decision.

“Families seem to have appreciated the opportunity to have input. Many were skeptical that there was a pre-determined outcome,” he said.

Johnson said the robust amount of communication and the fact that staff and board members listened to the community helped to build some goodwill, after some controversial decisions in the past which led to prolonged tensions at the board, staff and community level.

Another reason the superintendent recommended against making a calendar change was the lack of clarity from the ministry of education about whether there would be funding for inter-session learning, similar to that given to summer school. In addition, the report indicates that any change to the calendar would be best done on a regional basis.

The district will be offering summer school this summer.