I am writing regarding the proposed calendar changes currently under review by the Langley School District. While I commend the School Board for encouraging an open and candid conversation about this important topic, I found there to be an imbalance in the information provided. The School District seems to only outline the positives of such a change, but does not touch on the negatives (unless you count the report linked to from the Vancouver School District).
So, to provide a more balanced positioning of the subject, I would like to offer some considerations for parents against a calendar change.
1. I understand that a two-month summer originated based on needs around harvest; however, just because that no longer applies, it doesn't mean the current calendar doesn't still work.
2. School is important, but it is not the only thing that matters to our children. What about the time spent outside in the summer months? Most national and provincial parks are closed in the winter. What about visits to family in other provinces/school districts? School is important - but it's not everything that is required in creating a well-rounded and balanced childhood. Besides, many studies show that year-round schooling has done little to nothing in terms of improving education. There is no empirical data proving one way or another if such a change will benefit our children, why do it?
3. There is a short window of good weather in Canada that I believe we should exploit as much as we can. We talk about wanting our children to spend more time outside, yet these proposed changes will see them spending warm sunny days inside. More time off in the cold rainy months will most likely see children inside with an increased screen time. Plus, teachers have commented on how lethargic children are in the warmer months and less apt to learn.
4. Langley School District depends on portable classrooms to meet the needs of all students. These portables are unbearably hot in June and September. What will they be like in July or August? In the past, our school's PAC consulted with the Langley School District on the possibility of air conditioning units for the portables. We were told categorically that they just weren't an option. The cost of an air conditioner that could cool a room of that size (plus its ongoing maintenance) was prohibitive and was simply not something the Langley SBO could take on. What is the School Board's budget allotment for air conditioners and maintenance under these changes?
5. For teenagers impacted by this calendar change, it will be more difficult to secure full time employment during the shorter time frames.
6. For university students coming home in the summer months, there will be less opportunity to secure summer jobs with businesses that have, in the past, been driven by summer vacations (Township/City camps, waterslides, mini-golf, parks, etc.) And what impact will these changes have on the local economy?
7. This change will make it very difficult for families who work. Many office based businesses slow down in the summer months with employers encouraging employees to take their holidays then. I expect it will be very difficult for many parents to try and secure holiday time on such a staggered schedule. Would time off in November perhaps work for families who can afford to fly off to warmer climates? Yes. But it is prejudicial against families who cannot.
These are just some of the negative impacts that will result from a calendar change. In closing, I offer an excerpt from a report developed by the British Columbia Teachers' Federation for your consideration:
"There appears to be little examination of alternatives to year-round schools, or even posing of basic questions. What exactly is the problem? Improving student achievement? Saving money? Why does there only appear to be a single solution - year-round schools - in much of the debate? If educational achievement is not significantly and universally improved by the development of year-round schools, is the concept worth the upheaval it causes? What else could be considered? Perhaps we need to re-state the problem within a local context rather than pursue the analysis of a single answer from a foreign country with many educational, social, climatic, demographic and political differences to Canada."
Lorraine Baldwin, Langley