The Grand Erie District School Board has agreed to test a “balanced year” calendar at one of its elementary schools.
A working group will be established to create a pilot project at a Brantford school for the 2022-23 school year.
With a balanced year, also called year-round schooling or modified school year, students begin classes in August rather than September and have a five-week summer vacation.
Students have the same 194 school days required by the province but they are distributed differently over the course of the school year.
In a report to trustees, Wayne Baker, superintendent of education, said “balancing” the school year has a “significant history” but has been most used over the past 25 years. The balanced year was created as a way to mitigate summer learning loss related to academic achievement and student behaviour, he said.
Some studies show that, on average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by a month’s worth of school-year learning.
“Research indicates that the impact in academic terms is most prominent in math and language, and especially for at-risk students,” said Baker.
A committee was created in February to explore options related to a modified school year calendar. The committee recommended establishing a pilot in Brantford because the schools are geographically closer, so a nearby school to the pilot school could be used for students opting in or out of the balanced-year option.
Baker said there are currently 23 Ontario school boards that offer a balanced-year option. Some are only at the elementary level, some only at the secondary level, and some are a combination of both.
“In all cases, only a few schools, at most, within a board will use the balanced school year,” said Baker. “As one presenter to the committee stated: ‘The balanced school year isn’t for everyone, but those involved with it love it.’”
Baker’s report lists some benefits and challenges related to the modified school year.
- A reduction in summer learning loss.
- The first month of school isn’t needed to re-establish practices, routines, rules, etc.
- Reduced stress for students and staff with holidays evened out over the school year.
- A reported reduction in absenteeism among staff and students.
- A reported improvement in student achievement.
- Some families and staff have interests that could be better met by having holidays at times other than the summer.
- Schools will be hot in August, even if equipped with fans.
- Professional development planning and sports scheduling must consider the balanced year calendar.
- Reporting periods must be modified.
- The balanced year is a “drastic change to 150 years of the traditional agrarian model of education.”
- Junior kindergarten students are one month younger when they begin school.
- Staffing considerations will need to be reviewed with impacted unions and agreements reached where necessary.