Doors open at Canada's largest year-round school

The largest school to ever try year-round schooling in Canada opened Tuesday in Brampton, Ont., west of Toronto.

A brand-new school opened its doors west of Toronto for a new school year Tuesday – launching the largest implementation in Canada of year-round schooling.

Instead of getting one long break in the summer, 1,100 students at the new Roberta Bondar Public School in Brampton, Ont., will get a series of smaller ones spread out over the school year, as well as a much shorter summer vacation.

"It's pretty cool," student Kushman Kardaliwal told CBC News.

"We get to start before everybody else and we get more breaks than everybody else."

There will still be the same number of academic days as other schools, plus holidays on such days as Good Friday, Easter Monday and Victoria Day and the Christmas to New Year's break.

What's new are the short breaks in October, February and again in March.

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Demand for the program was so high, the school had to cap its enrolment, even before it opened.

And demand was high among teachers, as well.

"There's a lot of people who would like to be here. I've turned away a lot of good teachers," said principal Joan Hamilton.

Year-round schooling has already been tried elsewhere in Canada, but Roberta Bondar Public School is believed to be the largest to ever try it. 

Academic benefits

"By reducing the summer, it allows children to get right back into learning," Hamilton said. "They tend to forget over the summer."

The Peel District School Board said any student that asked could opt out of the program. It was even offering to transport them to a new school.

But only three per cent of students wanted out.

For the other 97 per cent there are plans in place to help families deal with the changes in the school calendar year.

For starters, there'll be school-run programs for children whose parents can't arrange child care during the scheduled breaks.

As well, there's been careful planning to make sure the school has air conditioning and bottled water to keep everyone comfortable during hot summer days.

Year-round schooling advocate Jack Smyka says lower income children may particularly benefit from this new approach to schooling.

"Lower socioeconomic groups are left to their own devices through the summertime," Smyka told CBC News.

"In the meantime, other kids are going to camp, are being stimulated by their more-well-to-do parents."

The benefits are both short and long term, he said.

"When you look at that over the course of 10 years in elementary school, it makes quite a difference."