While the two-month summer break is usually welcomed by students and staff alike, one Vernon school is looking at ways of changing the school calendar to ensure optimal learning.
Last spring, Mission Hill Elementary School began to explore an alternative to the current school calendar.
“As a school we are always looking for innovative ways to improve student achievement,” said principal Lynne Gibson.
“We have noticed that two months off in the summer is not conducive for some of our students, especially those that are already struggling as learners. They often forget strategies and concepts and these have to be retaught before they can move forward.
“One of the things that schools who have a balanced calendar in place have also reported is that a balanced calendar has positively affected the health and wellness of both staff and students.”
The traditional school calendar currently runs from September to the end of June, with two weeks off for winter break and two weeks off for spring break. A balanced calendar looks to redistribute some of the nine weeks off in the summer, creating a more balanced year for students and staff.
Gibson said the number of days students are in school doesn’t change as that is mandated by the Ministry of Education, usually between 187 and 190 days.
During previous work as an administrator in a multi-track calendar school in Calgary, Gibson saw the benefits to students who were in the balanced calendar track.
“I brought the idea to the staff and parent community, with the idea that we would explore the idea to see if it was a fit for our school community,” she said, adding that a committee was struck of parents, support staff, teachers and administration.
“We believe it has the potential to improve student achievement as well as the health and wellness of both staff and students.”
Initial conversations have led to presentations, with opportunities for staff and parents to explore questions about a balanced school calendar. Information gleaned from these meetings has been shared with staff, parents and all partner groups.
“The Vernon School District board has been very supportive of the process and has mandated that they will require a 90 per cent positive response from parents in order to move forward,” said Gibson. “Moving forward requires lots of discussion and updates to procedures and processes within the school district itself.”
The development of the calendar can be designed to meet the needs of the school community and will depend on input from all parties.
“We have had wonderful conversations with both staff and community using the World Cafe format. As you would expect we have had some parents who support the idea and others who are unsure. We will know for sure when we have our votes.”
She said some of the concerns from parents and staff revolved around students having opportunities to participate in community programs and being accommodated by local day care facilities.
A meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Mission Hill school library.
Everyone is welcome, including community service providers, day care providers and local churches, parents, business owners or representatives from other community programs.
Following the meeting, the final step will be a presentation to staff and parents followed by the voting process, with voting done by ballots given to each family with a student at the school.