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School year will not be cut in Howe Sound district

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But board plans to continue to study modified calendar for future implementation

The Howe Sound School Board has decided not to cut 20 days from the school year to boost funding.

The decision follows the collection of 1,113 surveys on the modified calendar, which found that 58 per cent of students, teachers, parents and others were in favour of cutting the school year from 197 days to 177.

"We did not feel that 58 per cent was a strong mandate," said school board superintendent Dr. Linda Rossler.

"We want a strong consensus that this is being done for good reasons and that it is educationally sound."

Rossler said the board has decided to study the concept of a modified school calendar for another year and consider putting a pilot project in place, perhaps in Whistler for the 2004-05 school year.

It also plans to examine the option of year round schooling.

That was welcome news to Howe Sound Teachers Association president Marjorie Reimer.

"I really appreciate the fact that they recognize that not enough consultation had been done," she said.

"Certainly this calendar change was never deemed to be driven by educational reasons, only financial, and they weren’t good financial reasons."

The board had already found the savings it needed to balance the budget when it went forward with the proposal to cut the 20 days, said Reimer.

And, she added, the suggestion by the board that the "extra" money created by cutting 20 days could have gone to reinstate library and counselling services may not be accurate.

"This money would not have been directed to counseling and librarians because we have school based budgeting," said Reimer.

"We talked to principals and we did not get a strong indication that the money would be headed in that direction. The money would have gone to things like paper, and the operating budget."

Reimer is encouraged that the board has pledged to engage in continuing consultation on these issues and others.

Rossler and the board also want to continue to study the results out of other districts that have adopted a modified calendar system.

"There have been districts in B.C. that have implemented this and have found good results in a one year period," said Rossler.

"But a one year period does not necessarily mean you have those results continuing over a longer period, so two years might give us more information.

"So the intent is to continue the conversation about modifying the school calendar.

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