WATERLOO REGION – Do children learn best by attending school all year round, rather than taking two full months off in the summer?
Three public school trustees have asked the Waterloo Region District School Board to choose two elementary schools to test a schedule that shortens summer vacation.
“We know that for some children, having school all year round would be good for their learning,” said Kathi Smith, school counselor.
She points to children who forget what they have learned during the summer and must be upgraded in September.
In addition, she finds extended summer vacations difficult for some children whose families cannot afford camps, vacations and programs.
“Some of them don’t do nothing for the summer. Some of them are in trouble for the summer,” Smith said. “There are kids who cry on the last day of school because they don’t have a place to go for the summer.”
School all year round is not a new idea. A handful of schools in Ontario are doing this and other Canadian schools are doing it.
Students attend classes the same number of days in the year. Typically, summer vacation at nine weeks is reduced to four weeks, with vacation being distributed more evenly. A school year can start in August and end in June.
“I think it’s worth exploring,” said administrator Mike Ramsay. “Anything we can do that has the potential to improve student learning and achievement, I think is worth considering. ”
Proponents argue that this makes learning smoother and more consistent. Students forget less. Teachers don’t have to catch up with them that much.
Against the critics, there is no evidence of better learning and summer vacation refreshes students, families and teachers. Additionally, summer courses may not be possible in older schools without air conditioning.
On Monday, public school commissioners will debate Smith’s proposal to test year-round tuition at two indeterminate elementary schools, in Kitchener and Cambridge. She offers to test it for two years and evaluate it.
The proposal has not yet been approved. While most administrators support it, Smith is hoping that year-round schools can be launched by September. The board should work with teachers’ unions, Ramsay said.
Smith said there are schools and teachers willing to school year round. “Not all teachers are going to take the plunge to do it,” she said, citing teachers who want to be absent from school for two summer months.
“I think this is an idea that deserves a conversation and consideration at the board table,” said director Natalie Waddell.
Three elementary schools in Brampton operate year round. Roberta Bondar Public School was the first to follow this path in 2005, calling it a “balanced schedule”. Two more schools in Brampton followed.
Educators have been debating the pros and cons for years. Research into whether year-round schooling improves student outcomes or offers other benefits is often called mixed.
Ramsay isn’t sure why a nine-week summer break is necessary as jobs and lifestyles change. He remembers when the school board sought to align its summer schedule with the planned closures of large factories that no longer exist.
“Should we continue a process that was designed to accommodate another time? I don’t know, ”he said.
The nine-week summer vacation “was based on an agricultural model. But we don’t have as many children living on farms,” Smith said.