Granted, this has been an atypical winter – elbowing its way well into spring by this point. We would expect a fair number of school cancellations as a result, but the record number this year will have many people calling for a contingency plan.
The issue was subject to review some years ago, with a number of points raised about the challenges faced in cancelling – or not cancelling – due to weather. But no significant changes or solutions resulted.
Notably, many years this is not a problem, with maybe a handful of snow days. This year has marked that rare winter, with the number seriously cutting into instruction time. Although it could be worse – some schools in P.E.I. were closed for the fifth day in a row Tuesday.
Interestingly, some among the public get worked up about teachers seemingly getting an unwarranted break. But the more serious dilemma is students missing days to the point of inadequate time to cover subjects.
As for total school days, they vary by province. Nova Scotia’s 195 total days compares to 185 in New Brunswick, 190 in a couple of other provinces, and a high of 200 in Alberta. But it might be a good idea to look at how many days in those totals are non-teaching days – dedicated to professional development or special events.
Simply tacking extra days on wouldn’t be practical. Next year there could be no more than one or two cancellations due to storms – although for the rest of us that might be wishful thinking.
Some, in pondering this problem, have looked at the way school years are handled elsewhere. Some places in the U.S., for example, have an earlier start to the school year with a corresponding earlier end. In the event of a significant loss of days through winter, a couple of days can be tacked on in June.
Some means of building some give-and-take into the system would help, even if it meant giving up professional development days in the latter half of the year to add an extra couple of days of instruction.