New calendar raises concerns at elementary schools 

Back-to-back holidays next spring may mean students have to make up for lost time

Parents at Myrtle Philip and Spring Creek elementary schools are working furiously to survey how families feel about having two weeks vacation next Easter.

The move follows the adoption this week by the school board of a calendar for 2005 that runs the spring break and Easter holidays together. Normally the two holidays are separated by a number of school days. But this year they are separated by just three school days.

"The concern that I have is that… there may be a number of families that will be tempted to take some kind of vacation over those days," said school superintendent Dr. Rick Erickson.

"If that was true and the group was significant then that would disrupt continuity of instruction for those who would be remaining."

In order to take those three days off extra minutes must be added to every other school day of the year.

"Spring Creek parents are absolutely opposed to adding an additional five minutes to the school day to take these three days off," said Parent Advisory Council chair Barb Leigh.

"(The school board) thought that there would be lots of parents who would take the three days off and just have the two weeks off. "But I really don’t think they took into consideration what happens in Whistler. For us it is the busiest time of the year and few parents are able to take time off. I don’t think they have a real grasp on what this means for the community."

Leigh is also concerned that adding minutes to each school day will not give kids the same value educationally as spending the day in school.

She is not alone.

"The first concern that parents seem to have is the loss of teaching time and school days," said Myrtle Philip PAC chair Cathy Jewett.

"We have heard from teachers how difficult it is to fit the curriculum into the time available now."

Next year there will be 181 instructional days in the district. North Vancouver has also adopted the same calendar but other school districts, such as Vancouver, have not.

Erickson agrees that adding minutes on may not be as effective educationally but, he said: "My concern in this case is continuity and the disruption of instruction should we have kids away on those days.

"And the recommendation is for this coming year only."

It’s likely parents will be asked to fill in a survey on the issue in the coming days. The results will be passed on to school principals who will then meet with other stakeholders, such as staff. A final recommendation must be sent on to the school board by June 14.

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