School Calendar Changes
Many districts are considering changes to the length of the school day, week, or year. In 2002, legislation was passed to allow the local school board more flexibility in scheduling. While parents must be consulted, parental approval is no longer required before changes can be made. Teachers throughout BC believe that any changes to school calendars should be made to enhance learning and teaching, rather than just to facilitate funding cuts.
Each school may have its own calendar different from every other school in the same district. Holidays and hours do not have to be uniform across the community. You could find you have each of your children in a school that operates on a different calendar from the others, resulting in different school bus schedules or different start and end times for the day or year, or even different winter or spring holidays. The changes are accomplished by adding time to the school day.
The plan to move to a four-day school week originated as a cost-savings plan during a time of energy crisis. All of the districts that have moved to this plan have done so when facing dwindling budgets. It is often done out of a sense of desperation in the hopes of not having to close schools. This plan works best in small rural areas with small enrolments, great travel distances, student attendance problems, and challenges recruiting and retaining teachers. The week is shortened by extending the hours for four days and closing the school on the fifth day.
Another scheme is to add time to the school day and then have longer winter and spring breaks.
Both schemes result in the boards' cutting costs. Costs are reduced in the budget lines of transportation, heating and air conditioning, building wear and tear, custodial costs, and a reduction to support staff and/or support staff time.
Questions for parents to consider about school schedule changes:
- Will your elementary school child have to go and come from school in the dark for the winter months?
- Will additional time each day add to the stress and tiredness of your child?
- How long in a day should a young child be expected to concentrate and learn?
- How will you schedule children on different schedules at different schools?
- If you work away from home how will your children's schedule affect your schedule?
Child care needs
- Will an extended winter and spring break mean you must pay more for child care?
- If you rely on an older sibling to care for younger siblings and the older child is no longer available how will you accommodate the younger child's needs?
- Will your child be able to cope with a shortened lunch break and perhaps no recess and not become overtired?
- Will your child require extra food for the longer day? In some schools on the four-day week programs, costs were saved due to no food being served on the fifth day. Can you afford the extra costs of now providing for the fifth day?
- Will there be an increased risk of bullying and violence with an extended day and fewer supervisors?
- Will the district ensure there is adequate lighting provided on sites where schools are open later?
- Will students have to travel on dark streets?
- If students leave later do they have to travel in periods of peak traffic due to rush hour?
- Many students enjoy community and extra-curricular school activities. If the day is extended by an hour or more will they be too tired to take part in such events? Will inter-district and intra-mural sports programs be affected?
Family lifestyle needs
- How will it affect your family if you are no longer able to have common meal times?
- If all of your children are not on a common holiday schedule how will family outings and vacations be scheduled?
- Will an extended day adversely affect the employment possibilities for your older children?
- Will families new to the community be able to adjust to this new calendar without hardship?
Children with special learning needs
- If there are fewer support staff available what will it mean to your child?
- How will a longer day affect your child's ability to learn?
- How will school facilities used by community groups be affected?
- Will the changed use of facilities affect community groups and programs either because of the changed facility availability or because of the changed attendance patterns of students and staff?
- In some districts the extended day and/or day off allows college courses to be held at the local high school sites. How do parents feel about the older students sharing a facility with the secondary or elementary students?
- If schools are closed on Fridays what will the effect be on the community and businesses in vandalism, loitering, policing?