Year-round schooling? It’s now an option. Two years ago, the Ministry of Education passed Bill 36, which allows districts to determine their own school calendar and paves the way for what the government refers to as ‘personalized learning.’
All districts must ensure that certain requirements are met, such as a minimum number of instructional hours. However, districts may now determine the number and dates of days in session, the number of dates of each day of instruction, the dates of vacation periods and the dates of each non-instructional day (e.g., professional development days).
The Ministry has stated that the changes will allow for a more flexible, student-based approach to learning, and more choice in terms of where, when and how students learn.
Before any amendments are made, however, school districts are required to consult with their community before they submit their calendars on March 7. Locally, School District 49 Vice-Principal Steve Dishkin has started the consultation process, but he says that so far he hasn’t received any request for major changes.
“We have had very little feedback so far and no direct requests to change the calendar from the status quo,” said Dishkin. “At present, we are already adapting to a multitude of changes in instruction techniques, graduation requirements, and the like.”
Dishkin said that, in the face of all these changes, the Board has decided to remain with the traditional calendar and focus on educating the public about the options for change in the future. The calendar is advertised on page three of this newspaper.
“The consultation process is still underway and will last until March 7,” said Dishkin. “There probably will not be any changes this year, but now we do have the option, as a community, to decide if want to tweak our calendar in the future to better suit our area.”
Personalized learning, now a focus of the governments BC Education Plan, is a new approach based on ‘recognizing each student as individual learner, with his or her own learning style.’ Provincial curriculum will need to be reviewed and renewed in order to adhere to this new standard of teaching and learning.
Dishkin said that, due to the small size of our district, personalized learning has already been taking place in the Bella Coola Valley. However, there are many opportunities to expand on this new frontier.
“For example, we may engage different levels of students on a personalized learning experience based on the ecosystem of the Bella Coola River,” said Dishkin. “Each level would receive a different credit for their work, such as Science 9 outcome, or a credit towards Biology 11, even a credit for community-based learning outcome.”
Dishkin is also looking forward to facilitating personalized learning in the community by focusing on getting students more engaged with the community, and by having the community be part of the assessment process.
Regarding amendments to the calendar, the public is invited to make submissions and direct comments and questions to District Vice-Principal Steve Dishkin. He can be reached at 250 982 2355 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org