September 6, 2018 7:00 am

Winnipeg School Division considering year-round school, later classes for older students

About 100 schools across Canada use a 'balanced calendar' system for the school year.

Global News
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The Winnipeg School Division is considering making some changes to its school schedule.

The idea of throwing out summer break in favour of several shorter breaks throughout the school year is something that has been brought up at the Winnipeg School Division.

Board trustee Mark Wasyliw said the concept of year-round school, which is the practice for about 100 schools in Canada, has been mentioned.

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“We do look at these things routinely, and this is probably something that’s eventually going to get on our radar, but because it’s such a drastic change, we would have to do extensive research, extensive public consultation,” he said.

“The way the school calendar is set up now, this is the only way anybody’s ever had it, and this is what seems normal, and to change it would be a huge step, so we would probably proceed with caution.”

READ MORE: No summer break? One former Vancouver school trustee says it’s time

The so-called balanced calendar system is said to reduce learning loss since students don’t have a lengthy summer break.

Wasyliw said the typical schedule for schools that abandon the standard summer vacation simply means extending other vacation periods while cutting down the time off in July and August.

Spring break tends to go two weeks instead of one, Christmas sees a three-week break instead of two and while summer gets shorter, it still is a “major break,” just not what students see now.

“Having these two months off, there is significant learning loss between June and September,” Wasyliw noted.

“We do testing in September when the students come back and we find that there’s a drop off in what they learn from the previous year and you have to catch them back up and re-teach things that they had already learned.”

READ MORE: Back to school anxiety? How to soothe your child’s fears

Research has shown that this type of schedule would be most beneficial for newcomer students and lower-income students who don’t necessarily get the same opportunities to keep learning over the summer.

“Right now at the Winnipeg School Division, we actually have a summer enrichment program that is targeted at at-risk and newcomer students specifically to fill those gaps in,” Wasyliw said.

“So we’re kind of doing it right now — the question is should we be doing it for everyone.”

Back to school anxiety is also a major issue flagged by parents and children alike as classes began this week, and Wasyliw feels it could be improved by reducing the break length over the summer.

But he said while the division has no plans to dramatically reshape the school year any time soon, one thing they are thinking about is moving classes back to allow older students to get a bit more shut eye.

“High school students need a lot more sleep than they’re actually getting, and it’s affecting their performance — especially early morning classes,” he said. “The Winnipeg School Division is currently looking at whether or not we should be starting high school later in the day than we currently do.”

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