Okanagan Skaha unlikely to change school calendar

Probably not coming soon to a school near you: dramatically shorter summer holidays.

The B.C. Education Ministry recently unveiled legislative amendments that would give districts the ability to manipulate school calenders however they like, so long as students receive a minimum number of instructional hours.

But the proposal is “really just a housekeeping change,” said Ginny Manning, chair of the Okanagan Skaha School District board of trustees.

Schools already had the ability to adjust their calendars to suit local needs, they just needed the ministry’s permission to do it, she said. Not anymore.

Some of the few schools that have already tweaked their calendars did away with long summer holidays in favour of more frequent, but shorter, breaks, Manning said, which some believe helps kids because teachers spend less time on review and more time on new material when schools reconvene after a long holiday.

While SD 67 is “not contemplating it at the moment,” Manning said a reworking of local calendars would first require extensive consultation.

“It really needs a lot of that, because school calendars don’t just affect students and teachers,” said Kevin Epp, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union.

While teachers aren’t philosophically opposed to the idea, he said sports camps and summer student jobs, among many other activities, would be dramatically affected by a move to a non-traditional school schedule.

Also of concern for Epp is the possibility of some schools switching and some not, which could pose problems for families with kids in multiple schools.

The other big legislative change introduced last month would permit students in all grades to take online classes. Only kids in Grade 10-12 are allowed to do so now. The government pitched the switch as a way to offer more learning options for students who attend smaller schools with limited course selections.

Manning said parental involvement is crucial for online learning to work. Epp agreed, but said colleagues have told him online study is most effective for students who are tech-savvy, self-motivated and thrive while working on their own.


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