By Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun April 30, 2012
The Canadian Union of Public Employees plans to fight any effort to change the B.C. school calendar.
Delegates to a union convention Saturday in Victoria passed an emergency motion opposing a government bill that would eliminate the standard September-to-June calendar and allow school districts to create more balanced calendars.
Also known as year-round schooling, balanced calendars distribute holidays throughout the year – generally by offering three months of classes followed by a month of holidays.
Research suggests balanced calendars prevent the learning loss that occurs for some students when they have 10 weeks of summer vacation.
Education Minister George Abbott introduced legislation last week to eliminate the standard calendar in the hope that more districts would gradually adjust their holiday schedules.
The bill was in response to requests from several superintendents, he said, although he added he doesn’t expect dramatic change to happen quickly.
CUPE BC, which represents school-support workers, said the bill is more about saving money than improving the quality of education.
A move away from the standard calendar would hurt special-needs students who need stability and consistent care, it says.
A non-traditional calendar would also create hardship for parents who need child care, the union says.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has also expressed skepticism about a balanced calendar and has asked staff to review the research to determine if it is beneficial or not.
Only a few B.C. schools have balanced calendars. Laurae McNally, chair-woman of the Surrey board of education, said she welcomed the proposed changes because they would give boards the autonomy to change calendars without seeking Education Minis-try approval. But she noted that when Surrey district raised the possibility of a balanced calendar a couple of years ago, parents were ambivalent and the idea was dropped.
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