Comox Valley School District looking at two-week spring break

It looks like students in the Comox Valley will have a two-week spring break next year.
The school board voted Tuesday to adopt a school calendar that includes a two-week spring break attached to Easter, as long as certain agreements are made with CUPE and the Comox District Teachers' Association (CDTA).

It looks like students in the Comox Valley will have a two-week spring break next year.

The school board voted Tuesday to adopt a school calendar that includes a two-week spring break attached to Easter, as long as certain agreements are made with CUPE and the Comox District Teachers’ Association (CDTA).

Last month, trustees received a report from the calendar committee, which recommended adopting a two-week spring break for 2011-12. The report showed that parents, staff and partner groups who responded to a survey about the school calendar favoured a two-week break attached to Easter weekend, which moves professional development days into August.

Trustees asked for more information about the financial implications of a two-week break.

The calendar committee did not entertain any calendar options on the basis of potential cost savings, Jeff Taylor, the district principal of education technology and chair of the calendar committee, explained in his briefing note to the board.

Agreements can be made between the school district, CUPE and the CDTA to minimize or negate any loss of pay for any group, explained Taylor.

To achieve zero cost and zero gain, CUPE would need to agree to allow clerical and library staff members to bank more than eight hours and would need to agree that if clerical/library banked insufficient hours over the year, they would be deducted pay, and that no 2010-11 staff will work the second week.

The CDTA would need to agree that continuing and temp teachers hired by July 15 must attend the three days prior to Labour Day and that days prior to Labour Day are lieu days, and other leave provisions do not apply. These are the agreements that trustees agreed must be met.

According to the calendar committee’s cost-benefit analysis, there would be no additional costs to a two-week spring break, and no salary savings are expected, as lost wages would be recovered through banked time.

The district could save $9,000 in heating and lighting, but only if the buildings are closed during the second week.

Trustee Danny White, who supported a two-week break last year, favoured the longer spring break.

“I think it was quite clear from all the information we received that the majority of participants were in favour of a two-week spring break,” he said.

Trustee Corinne McLellan was impressed with the way the district elicited feedback this year.

“From what you’ve demonstrated, it looks like it’s not going to cost the district any money,” she noted.

McLellan did raise a concern about families being able to afford two weeks of programming for their children, as did board chair Susan Barr.

Barr suggested a “win-win situation” might be if CUPE employees ran some kind of day program to ensure employees don’t lose out on any work and ensure that parents can participate in spring break programs at a nominal cost.

• • •

School District 71 chair Susan Barr abstained from a vote about the length of the 2012 spring break because she was worried about the effect of a court ruling.

In April, the Supreme Court of B.C. struck down portions of Bill 28, the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act, and Bill 27, the Education Services Collective Agreement Act. The Supreme Court has given the provincial government one year to reach a negotiated resolution.

“There’s a year in which to get this fixed, but I don’t know what the fix is going to be,” said Barr. “I don’t know if teachers can be compelled to come back to work at the end of August.”

Superintendent Sherry Elwood told Barr that the the legal opinion and BC Public School Employers’ Association opinion the district has to date is that Bill 28 is not in play this September, and moving to a two-week spring break with professional development days in August would not go against the spirit of the judge.

“As of yesterday, 43 of 60 school districts across the province are engaging in a two-week spring break next school year, and they have had the same kind of advice that we have that Bill 28 wouldn’t be in play for teachers to decide if they were coming back in August,” she said. “I would hope I could reassure you that Bill 28 doesn’t need to be a factor in this conversation.”

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