School trustees settle calendar details 

Two-week spring break to be preserved with Pro-D days spread throughout the year

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For the next three school years spring break in School District 48 is going to be two weeks long.

The school trustees in the district voted on the issue at a regular meeting of the board last week after parents, students, teachers, unionized school employees and other school system stakeholders were polled on their feelings about four potential calendar options for the district.

A total of 570 people participated in an online survey probing the popularity levels of options for the school district. The survey was conducted through most of October.

Carl Walker with the Howe Sound Teachers Association said teachers are generally supportive of the new calendar decision.

"In the past this issue has consumed a lot of time... a lot of resources in our view that could be devoted to more substantive matters," said Walker.

He said the three-year timeframe means time previously spent on calendar discussions each year can be better spent.

"It's a very time consuming process and a year ago the government didn't allow us to approve a calendar beyond one year so that new regulation has opened it up," said Lisa McCullough, the school district's superintendent of schools. "We want to pour all of our time and attention on classroom and student learning and how students are feeling day-to-day as opposed to talking about a calendar for months every year."

According to McCullough, students will learn and do well under any calendar scenario. She said the consultation process around the calendar decision was inclusive and she noted the calendar for the next three years looks a lot like the calendar the district has used the last few years.

"I don't think, generally, people are ready for radical change yet," said McCullough.

The survey results indicated 37 per cent of the respondents preferred to have professional development days spread throughout the year and two weeks off each spring. The preferred option was dubbed Option 2B Spread in the survey. The next most popular option was called Four Break. The Four Break scenario was the first choice of 24 per cent of the poll respondents. It called for a one-week break around Remembrance Day, the traditional two-week break at Christmas, a one-week break in February then another one-week break in April. Parents in Squamish and Whistler preferred the Four Break option. Students, teachers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Pemberton parents all indicated their preference was Option 2B Spread.

This school calendar template will be put in place for the school year starting in September and it will be used through to the end of the 2016/17 school year.

The upcoming school year will also be one full of changes for students in Squamish. In addition to finalizing the school calendar for the district schools, the trustees also voted to move all the Grade 7 students in Squamish under one roof at Don Ross Secondary School. The move was made to deal with a growing number of pre-school kids headed for the crowded elementary schools in Squamish.

One more change in Squamish will see the creation of an early French immersion program. The French immersion offering in Squamish is currently available to students from Grade 5 and up. McCullough said the phasing out of Late French Immersion will be done in such a way that any students currently in the program will continue to have access to French immersion. Starting in September, Squamish students in Kindergarten and Grade 1 will have the option of going into French Immersion.

"We will continue to run our late immersion right up until the cohort that started in early immersion arrives in Grade 5," McCullough said.

Registration for Early French Immersion in Squamish and Kindergarten throughout the corridor begins on Monday, Nov. 25.


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