In British Columbia, school may not be out for summer

New legislation could change the classic school calendar

The Cleveland Kid/Flickr

For many elementary and high school students in B.C., this could be the last year they get to run out into the dazzling June sun with the knowledge that they won’t have to touch a pencil for more than two glorious, homework-free months. George Abbott, the B.C. minister of education, introduced legislation in Victoria last week that will give B.C. school districts the power to change the classic school calendar by spreading the summer holidays throughout the rest of the year.

The idea of a year-round calendar is hardly new, and proponents argue that a more balanced schedule—three months on, one month off—decreases so-called “learning loss” that occurs over long summer breaks. They also say it lets parents and teachers holiday outside peak travel times. “Teachers love it. Parents love it,” says Katie Sullivan, principal of Kanaka Creek Elementary School in Maple Ridge, one of a handful of B.C. schools already on the “balanced calendar.” (Under the current rules, every year the school must seek approval from the ministry to set its own calendar.) Sullivan has noticed her students need less time to review previous lessons after breaks, and that teachers seem more energized. She says the model is the envy of teachers in the Fraser Valley city, and that there’s a waiting list to get in her classrooms. Although it might not be right for all schools, Sullivan backs the bill. “I support choice,” she says.

Not so for Susan Lambert, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. By devolving authority on school calendars, she says the government is putting the stability and standards of the B.C. school system at risk. “I’m very concerned about the impact on families of a chaotic school system, where any school can be on a different schedule.”

Regardless of such concerns, the long, lazy days of summer will likely get a bit shorter for many B.C. students.