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June 13, 2021

Is it time for a longer school year?

As the school year winds down, the Vancouver School Board has announced that it will drop 10 classroom days from the 2010-2011 school year to help balance an $18-million shortfall.

Five days will be added to the existing spring break in March, and an extra five will be sprinkled throughout the year. Students will actually spend the same number of minutes in the classroom but will face longer school days to make up the time.

In other jurisdictions, however, students could actually see their summer breaks slashed and their academic year stretched. Kids in Hawaii, for instance, the U.S. state with the shortest school year by far, will soon be staying in class a lot longer.

The state's public school year had been 180 days until recently, when a shrinking state budget led to teacher furloughs that closed schools on 17 of those days this year. Starting next year, however, the required number of annual instructional days will ramp up to 190 – pretty much the norm in Canada’s public system.

But even that’s not enough, critics argue, maintaining that the September-to-June school year is an anachronism dating back to an agriculture-based economy where children were needed to work on the farms after school and during the summer.

Their preferred alternative calendar divides the year into quarters, with two-week breaks about every two-and-a-half months. The result would be about a 10-12% boost in learning time overall.

Sure, it costs money to keep schools open longer, proponents admit, but it’s the best way to compete in a knowledge-based global economy. 

What do you think: Time to add a couple of weeks to the school calendar? Are shorter terms punctuated by short breaks worth the additional cost?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...