In relinquishing control over British Columbia's school year, the province has freed school districts to tweak their calendars to their hearts' content, but the move may have come at the cost of larger-scale, systemic improvement.
In speaking to the North Shore News about the regulatory change last week, representatives for stakeholders in North and West Vancouver talked in glowing terms about the potential advantages of a balanced school calendar, a model adopted in some other jurisdictions whereby summer break is shortened in favour of longer spring and winter breaks.
The idea arises from research suggesting that the long summer gap hurts students' retention, making it hard for them to catch up in the fall.
It's unlikely, though, that under the province's new laissez-faire regulatory framework, either district will look at the plan seriously, because to go it alone - or even as a pair - would be impractical.
A change to a shorter summer would require a cultural shift that stretches beyond the jurisdiction of any school district. The change would affect everything from provincial sports to recreation programs to daycare to transit planning; a patchwork of calendars would be a recipe for problems.
Realistically, any shift on that scale would have to be co-ordinated at the provincial level. But now, with Victoria out of the equation, it's unlikely it will ever happen.
The balanced calendar may or may not be the best option for our school system, but as a result of the province's move, it's an option that's no longer on the table.
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