Langley Board of Education has made the correct decision in rejecting a district-wide move towards year-round schooling.
If the education system operated in a vacuum, year-round schooling would likely make a lot of sense. Students retain more if there are shorter breaks between time in the classroom, and it would be most beneficial to students who have the greatest learning challenges.
However, our school system, which in many ways has changed little since the 1850s, is simply one of many systems modern-day families have to deal with.
They have to deal with employers, who have widely-varying demands on their employees.
They have to deal with governments at all levels, which demand an ever-growing portion of their annual incomes. Nowhere is this more true than in the Lower Mainland, where the province has boosted MSP premiums, Hydro, ferry and ICBC rates and is even boosting income tax on higher-income earners.
Local governments want an extra four to five per cent each year, and TransLink has never met something that it hasn’t considered adding a tax to.
Families also have to deal with the weather. Here in B.C., our best weather is usually in the month of August and in early September, with June and July a close second. How often have parents endured two nice weeks at the end of June, waiting for school to end — only to go on vacation in early July and hit steady rain?
While this could be seen as an argument for a modified calendar, as has been set up at Douglas Park Elementary, no one can count on the weather.
Families also have to deal with sports, arts and other extra-curricular activities. Most schedules are built around the school year, and most involve regular interaction with children of a similar age from other communities. Year-round schooling would put a big dent in extra activities that, for some children, are a badly-needed break from their studies.
There is much more to raising children than sending them to school. School is a very important part of the formative years, but families cannot shape their entire lives around a school calendar. Nor should they have to.
Unless the province is ready to embrace distance education (learning at home), and reshape the education system in that direction, year-round schooling simply won’t work.
The school district, and particularly superintendent Suzanne Hoffman, are to be commended for engaging very broadly with the community on this issue. With more than 7,400 responses, it can be fairly said that this was one of the most comprehensive exercises in democratic engagement in Langley in many, many years.
Ant not only did the district ask for feedback, it listened to what people said. This is an encouraging and hopeful step in the right direction.