Many students around B.C. may have their last long summer vacation next year, under new legislation that will allow school boards to scrap the traditional calendar.
The B.C. government introduced the amendments to the School Act on Thursday that will allow local school districts to set their schedules, provided they meet a minimum number of teaching hours, starting in the 2013-2014 school year.
Michael McEvoy, the head the B.C. School Trustees Association, welcomed the changes.
"Trustees have been looking for this kind of flexibility for a number of years," he said.
McEvoy says he has already heard interest from trustees in Vancouver and Grand Forks, but he expects many more districts will examine their options.
"It's really up to each individual board working with their communities, with their parents, with their kids in terms of how they want to develop their education agenda. Some boards may not make any change. Other boards may wish to make some changes in the calendar.
"But that's only going to happen with the consultation of the communities, and trustees look forward to that across the province."
Change could be divisive
Vancouver school board chair Patti Bacchus says school districts weren't consulted so she'll need to look at the legislation before giving a definitive response.
However, Bacchus says it can have educational benefits, but it's not something parents and teachers have been clamouring for:
"When I talk to folks who have been involved in other districts and have this discussion it can be a very divisive one," said Bacchus.
"People are used to the patterns that we have, and while there isn't a lot of educational reasons for sticking with what we call the agrarian calendar, to make a major change would require a lot of buy in, real interest and to make sure we're not disrupting things for families and for people who work in schools."
Bacchus says there is some year-round schooling programs already in Maple Ridge, Richmond and Langley, and agrees one of its benefits is the elimination of the two-month education gap in the summers.
Some schools already on year-round schedules
Parent Angela Downey already has her two children attending class on a year-round schedule at Maple Ridge's Kanaka Creek elementary, one of a handful of elementary schools already off the traditional calendar.
"I think it's fantastic - I think more schools should adopt it," said Downey.
Students at Kanaka Creek Elementary already get December, April and August off and Downey says the family benefits from vacations taken outside regular times and it's good for learning too.
"It seems they retain information a little bit better because they don't have the break in the summer that the regular kids have."
The amendments also extend the ability to take a mix of online and traditional school courses to students in kindergarten through Grade 9. Currently, only students in grades 10 to 12 have this option.
“These amendments to the School Act will provide school districts with additional tools to support personalized learning,” said Education Minister George Abbott.