The Langley Advance Times recently introduced this new weekly feature, call it “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley school board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online each Sunday.
Each school trustee was asked the same question: Should year-round schooling options be expanded in Langley?
Board chair Rod Ross
We consulted widely on this topic a few years ago and the results were pretty clear that we should not interfere with summer holidays.
Strangely after that consultation, community interest in summer school went through the roof.
It seems that the needs of our community can be meet with this service, so it appears to be a win-win for everyone at present.
Nevertheless, if there was widespread interest in year-round schooling, I would support it as it makes sense on an educational level.
Personally, I am exhausted after a long school year and welcome the opportunity to rest and re-charge.
Trustee Shelley Coburn
A. This isn’t just yes or no.
There is an overwhelming body of literature and research pointing to the benefits of year-round schooling.
Arguments in support include lessening learning loss that can occur over a long summer break, and keeping connection to positive environments for some of our more vulnerable students.For some, school is where many of their needs are met. Not just academic or physical needs, these are also emotional and social needs.
We need to ask if it’s year-round learning we are looking for, or are we wanting year-round school to fill the gaps of unmet social, emotional, and physical needs.
We have to ask – has school become the primary support and service provider for families.
Let us go one more step and ask — does the education system in its current form even make sense anymore, when held up against a 2021 reality.
The system was designed for a world that no longer exists.
As for summer vacations— summers off are a privilege. Not every one enjoys this privilege. For many families summer break can be stress inducing and in extreme cases result in neglect for some of our youth.
Viewed from the above lens the answer — we should do so with caution . And, if we are to expand year-round schooling options, it needs to be equitable and done throughout the entire province.
To do otherwise is to promote gross inequalities for some and tremendous opportunity for others.
Trustee Charlie Fox
A. There are two aspects to this question.
Firstly, I believe that year-round schooling is an extremely good educational option for families and students.
It is a schooling choice that is built on a very strong educational premise and has proven to have excellent outcomes for students. When I was a school principal, I visited many year-round schools in other districts, and I attended several sessions on the year-round schooling model at conferences.
I feel it has some significant benefits educationally, but it is not a model for every student and family.
Secondly, year-round schooling in our district would be considered a ‘choice’ schooling option, just like French immersion, fine arts, fundamental, outdoor school, and the many other choice schooling options our school district hosts.
Presently, we have no school that works on a year-round schooling premise. Douglas Park Elementary used to host a year-round schooling timetable, but with the expansion of summer school – both program and grade options and up to six weeks of schooling at no cost to the student– the year-round school program was removed from Douglas Park Elementary.
The school district responds to ‘choice’ school options based on need as defined by public input, space availability, and budget implications and there has been need for that with the expanded summer school.
As I see it, at the present time, I would say we are well served at the present moment with a full school year calendar supplemented by our robust summer school programming.
Trustee Suzanne Perreault
A. Year-round schooling option is a question that I would strongly encourage an in-depth community consultation before consideration.
The variables surrounding this type of decision cannot be taken lightly without understanding, through deep evaluation, the impact on families, staff, and budget.
My heart is to advocate that we keep opportunities open, to examine a dual track system meeting and supporting needs of all families.
Benefits and challenges swing in multiple directions from the experience that some children are supported best when there is continuous routine in place maintaining structure and rhythm; others simply need the complete disconnect from being on the “go” with ongoing demands.
The family structure is a significant consideration.
Many will lean strongly in the academic piece of “ongoing” learning, yet the social-emotional component is the critical piece – as it is the one that affects and/or supports, depending on the circumstances, the mental wellness of the student and flow into the family and community.
When examining year-round school, some think it means increase access to more curriculum; however, we see across Canada that isn’t so.
The same content is delivered, just differently at a higher operating cost while minimizing access for youth to take on summer jobs gaining other valuable skills, including through sports and the arts.
We could, in the process, experience evenly distrusted breaks, with less learning loss, keeping in mind this type of transition greatly impacts staffing and budget – which allow for opportunity for a competitive wage to attract teachers.
In the end, consultation matters.
Trustee David Tod
A. If my memory serves me correct, the school board tackled this very questions during the 2011-2014 term – just before I was elected.
Superintendent Suzanne Hoffman conducted vigorous consultation meetings and the response at the time was, NO.
I do believe that we need to examine our vision for the district, and our district has grown summer school offerings to exemplary levels, whereby many students can now access courses throughout the year (in effect, year-round schooling).
We also need to be mindful about the limitations of some of our buildings to provide a comfortable indoor climate during the hottest months.
At this time, I am comfortable with our current offerings. But, I believe the next school board may consider this question anew.
One of the lessons that this pandemic has taught us, is that our system needs down time to refresh, reinvigorate, retool, and renew.
Trustee Tony Ward
A. Although there are many reasons to consider any approach to education and the trade-offs of any particular schedule or model, our primary focus should always be on improving student achievement.
Are we doing the best we can to help students realize their full potential?
Here are some pros and cons of a ‘year-round’ schedule with a student focus:
• Less decline in achievement ‘summer learning loss’ caused by extended summer break
• Students do not feel detached from the school environment
• Does not have ‘summer break’ which allows for:
– Academic remediation and/or advancement (summer school)
– Extracurricular activity
– Summer jobs
– Camps and vacations
Although there are reasons that support year-round schooling, I do not believe that it currently makes sense for Langley.
A wholesale change would be required to add year-round schooling. And, since our educational programs are working very well, we shouldn’t turn the bus now.
Furthermore, Langley’s robust summer school program allows students to not only ‘catch-up’ but also to get ahead and ‘start strong’ in the upcoming school season.
It’s clear we need to find ways to address the decline in academic performance caused by ‘summer learning loss.’ We should be promoting year-round active ‘brain exercising’ (intellectual stimulation) during the summer months (and year-round) in order for students to maintain/maximize knowledge and skill retention, as well as accelerate academic performance.
Additionally, we need to encourage parents/guardians to have a strategy to keep their children intellectually stimulated over the summer break.
Trustee Marnie Wilson
A. I believe the key word in this question is “options” making it easy to answer, yes, as who doesn’t appreciate having options?
If the question was “should Langley become a completely year-round school district,” my answer would change to be “no.”
Something I have discovered in my many years working in the education system is there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to education; being flexible and offering choices for all types of learners and families is what works best.
In 2013, the district did consult the public on the issue of making school year-round for all schools, and the response from the community was an overwhelming ‘NO.’
The reasons for the lack of support for year-round schooling were: other districts wouldn’t line up with holidays; schools are not equipped with enough air conditioning; and students could lose out on opportunities to participate in summer sports teams and other summer programs.
I think we have learned a lot since that initial consultation, and we know that much of the community feel differently, evidenced by increased offerings and enrolment in our summer school programs.
We also have been provided more data on learning loss during extended time away from class, and we also know that many students benefit from the security/stability they feel from attending school.
I would be in favour of holding a consultation process to see if the school community would like to run a pilot project that offered a year-round schooling option.
Next week’s Langley MLAS are being asked: Should the province permanently increase the number of firefighters available to fight forest fires?
Watch for their answers online Sunday.