Langley’s public school students get to keep their summer vacations.
After a couple months of consultation, meetings and questions, the Langley School Board voted to keep the traditional calendar for the next three school years.
Langley was one of the first school district’s to bite after the provincial government amended provincial legislation to allow districts to set their own calendars. Langley’s appears to be the most comprehensive examination so far, giving some the impression that there was a “pre-determined decision,” but superintendent Suzanne Hoffman said that was not the case.
Trustee Candy Ashdown said the community didn’t feel respected in recent years and this calendar process brought out some underlying distrust. The district and the board have a lot of work to regain trust, she noted.
“[Doing such extensive consultation] represents a departure from the arrogance of the past,” said Trustee Megan Dykeman.
She said the views of the community need to be obtained often and not only every three years at the ballot box.
Trustee Alison McVeigh said the discussions can’t take place until the district asks questions of its stakeholders and explores options.
The district received approximately 200 emails about the proposed calendar changes.
“Our Facebook page was very active,” superintendent Suzanne Hoffman said. “Our Twitter feed was active.”
The district also created a survey, receiving 7,446 responses.
“We thought that was a good representation,” she said. “It provided us with some invaluable feedback.”
Some 76 per cent of people surveyed through the Langley School District calendar proposal consultations say they want the existing calendar with the summer break and a two-week spring break.
Only 14 per cent said they favoured option 2 (a three week winter break and three week spring break). And option 3, the year-round schooling idea only had 10 per cent of respondents in favour.
The agenda for the March 12 board meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at the district office, includes survey results broken down by groups of people.
School district administration was evenly split on the three options, each one garnered about one third of the votes.
Around 60 per cent of district support staff and teachers liked option one.
Langley business people had the highest response for keeping the existing calendar, about 85 per cent in favour, versus only about five to eight per cent for the other two options.
Students voted more than 70 per cent for keeping their summer holidays. Numbers were slightly higher for parents and parents of future students.
Concerns ranged from overheated schools during summer to lack of activities for kids with long breaks during the cold, wet months .
Other districts were also interested in Langley’s outcome.
“There has been a great deal of interest in the region,” Hoffman added.
The Abbotsford School District approved a status quo calendar for the coming school year at its Tuesday meeting.
While other districts were watching Langley, Langley decided it couldn’t make the changes alone since ther eis crossover with neighbouring districts (parents who live in one but work in another, for instance).
Langley may revisit the issue in the future as other districts also make changes.
Langley will be adjusting the dates of its two-week spring break to coincide with other districts. In the past it’s been timed around Easter. The Douglas Park Community School calendar was approved Tuesday evening as well. The school is the only one in the district that has year-round schooling.
Some trustees think the issue of year-round schooling will come up again in the future for all Langley schools.
“The truth is there is some change wanted,” commented Trustee Rod Ross.
McVeigh said “It is clear we’re not there yet” but she hopes the district can be “bold” enough to have the discussion again.
“Many countries around the world, countries that have lots of rain, too, have balanced calendars,” she noted.