With amendments to the School Act on April 26, school districts could see the elimination of the standard school calendar. In other words, it could mean year-round schooling for students and teachers.
BC Education Minister George Abbott said implementing the amendments is meant to give flexibility to school districts. “Enabling greater flexibility and choice is a key component of BC’s education plan,” he said in a press release, “and these amendments to the School Act will provide school districts with additional tools to support personalized learning.”
Abbott said he doesn’t expect dramatic changes to happen quickly, but year-round schooling would be implemented for the 2013-2014 school year in hopes school districts would adjust their holiday schedules over time.
Balanced calendars, such as the one Abbott introduced, distribute holidays throughout the entire year. It usually offers three months of classes and then a month of holidays.
Jeanette Scott, Powell River Board of Education chair, said it will ultimately be up to teachers and parents on how they move forward. “We knew it was coming,” she said. “We certainly welcome changes that allow boards to be flexible in what they allow students but we haven’t had any opportunity to talk to any of our teachers with regard to the implications.”
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has voiced its opposition to the change. At a convention over the weekend, the union passed an emergency motion opposing the government bill. CUPE told media the bill was more about saving money than improving quality of education.
BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) also had objections. BCTF president Susan Lambert said the bill is vague. “The problem with this legislation is it gives broad sweeping powers to the minister to enact regulations that will give us a bit more of an understanding of the intent of the legislation, so it’s vague. It may mean there’s an intent to have longer schooling. In that case I would certainly not be in favour of it.”
Lambert added if schools were to have flexibility in their own calendars, it would create problems for families. “I think we have to be worried about the impact on families, about children [with] odd calendars at different schools. I think that would be horrendous.”
Another revision included in Bill 36, the School Amendment Act 2012, would increase the flexibility in educational programs by allowing students in kindergarten to grade nine to take a mix of online and traditional school courses. This is currently an option open only to Grades 10 through 12.
Scott said no decision has been made and it would be between teachers and parents. “We already have courses that are moving out of the regular timetable and if students and teachers choose to do that it doesn’t become any huge problem for us,” she said. “The key is whether or not parents and teachers want this to happen. That’s how we make our decisions.”