Year-rounders back to school in Edmonton

Students returned to class Monday Aug. 9 at St. Catherine Elementary Junior High.

Youngsters were back in the classroom Monday at Edmonton's only year-round school.

St. Catherine Elementary Junior High, on 109th Avenue and 110th Street, is just making the switch to the new schedule.

Seventy-four per cent of parents surveyed last year said they would like their children to try year-round schooling.

Principal Dan Donnelly said many students are newcomers to Edmonton — 50 nationalities are represented at the school — and the shorter break will make a big difference in terms of student outcomes.

"We have a lot of English-language learners in our school," said Donnelly. "And over the long break in the summer, they tend lose a lot of what they'd learned the year before. They are going to have more success with smaller breaks spread out throughout the year."

To make up for a shorter summer break, students get a two-week break in October and an extra week at spring break.

Donnelly noted many of the students have both parents working and often aren't involved in extra-curricular activities.

"[They] aren't doing a lot over the summer," he said. "A lot of them are home for long hours and the parents are out working and they are home with older siblings and so on, so I think it does benefit them to have them here, so they don't have the long break of inactivity."

Brenda Oliver, who has three youngsters at the school, said the shorter break will help them remember their lessons.

"For kids, two months is a long time. Last year we had to start mathematics from scratch because they forgot their math over a two month period."

Even some of the kids didn't seem to mind. "It's very fun and I'm excited we get to meet our friends again," said Roberto Prince. "It's pretty good because we are going to like remember the stuff we learned last year and do better," said Nnamani Emmanuel .

But not all of them were enamored with the idea. "It's not good. No. I like my summer," said Waktola Teshale.

Brenda Coulombe, who teaches Grade 4, said she supports the shorter summer break.

"We are really working hard to help them learn English, and we felt that with having two months off, it was quite a long time where they weren't actually practicing what we'd been teaching throughout the year."