A local businessman is worried educators and parents pushing for a year-round school calendar aren't considering the impact such a move would have on seasonal businesses.
Chris Steunenberg, owner and operator of the Cultus Lake Water Park, said having kids in school year round-an idea currently being considered by the Langley school district-could threaten the very existence of summer businesses like his.
"Year-round schooling would have a huge and catastrophic effect on these businesses and on the tourism economy," he said, "but attractions and summer season businesses have not been given a voice or any exposure in this ongoing debate.
The Langley school board will decide next month whether to stay with a traditional calendar or move to a school year with three one-month breaks, shrinking the summer holidays.
Steunenberg estimates his business would lose 40 per cent of its revenue if all B.C. districts adopted a similar plan.
"It would have such a huge impact, we wouldn't be able to operate," he said.
He predicts the same would hold true for summer camps, tourist attractions, amusement parks, campgrounds, boat rentals and other seasonal businesses.
Educators have long argued for the merit of a so-called balanced calendar with breaks spread out through the year.
Students forget less over the shorter breaks, they say, and teachers spend less time reviewing pre-vacation material.
But Steunenberg argues that advocates of a year-round calendar are ignoring the needs of future university students who rely on summer jobs to fund their post-secondary education.
"I employ 180 students every year who take that money and buy a university education," he said. "They become lawyers and police officers and school teachers themselves. Without that summer job, there's no hope of getting through the next level of education."
As a parent, he said he also believes the two-month summer vacation is good for kids and families.
"I know kids lose a certain amount of their smarts during the summer break," he said, "but they gain so much as well. They gain childhood memories. They gain bonding time with their siblings and with their parents. You learn to swim, you learn to bicycle, you go on hiking trips, all these things."
Because Langley makes up 10 to 15 per cent of Cultus Lake Water Park's market, according to Steunenberg, a move to a year-round school calendar there would have an immediate impact on his business, but he is more worried about the precedent such a move would set for other districts.
The idea of exploring a balanced calendar in Chilliwack has come up at school board meetings in the past, and trustee Heather Maahs, who sat on a 2011 B.C. School Trustees Association committee tasked with exploring year-round calendars, supports the idea.
"What I'm in support of is providing lots of choice for parents," she said. "So, that may not mean that every school has a balanced calendar, but schools have the option."
Year-round schools already exist in the Maple Ridge, Langley, and Richmond school districts, she said. She doesn't believe approving a balanced calendar would automatically lead to all schools in a district adopting it or to the end of the two-month summer break as we know it.
And even if the Chilliwack board were to approve a year-round calendar, the district would still have to work out a deal with local teachers to remove the so-called "bookends" of the traditional school year, which officially runs from the Tuesday after Labour Day to the last Friday in June.
The last time district officials called on the Chilliwack Teachers' Association to change those bookends to accommodate a two-week spring break this year, local teachers said no.
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