Comox Valley school trustees pondering two-week Easter break

They've heard from parents and staff members who would like a two-week spring break, and trustees are waiting for additional information before deciding on the calendar for the 2011-12 school year.
Trustees decided Tuesday to defer any decision on next year's calendar to a special board meeting May 10 after receiving a report from the calendar committee this week.

They’ve heard from parents and staff members who would like a two-week spring break, and trustees are waiting for additional information before deciding on the calendar for the 2011-12 school year.

Trustees decided Tuesday to defer any decision on next year’s calendar to a special board meeting May 10 after receiving a report from the calendar committee this week.

The committee conducted six meetings from December to March and polled teachers, CUPE members, principals and vice-principals and excluded staff, as well as parents, during the month of March.

The committee began with a calendar resembling last year’s calendar and received a proposal for two other possible calendars, according to the report by Jeff Taylor, the district principal of education technology and chair of the calendar committee.

Through discussion and by consensus, the committee determined that two calendar options were viable — a one-week spring break similar to calendars in years past, or a two-week spring break attached to Easter weekend, moving professional development days into August — and these were presented to stakeholders for consideration.

Results gathered indicated a clear preference on the part of all stakeholders for a two-week spring break, according to Taylor, and the committee is recommending this option to the board based on its work and the people it has consulted.

Parents had three options to respond, and the calendar committee received responses from 2,023 households out of a potential 3,875.

Total results from all stakeholders showed that 69 per cent of respondents preferred a two-week spring break, while 27 per cent voted for a one-week break.

With the two-week spring break, students are in school the same amount of days — it is just shifting the days in the year, Taylor clarified during Tuesday’s meeting.

“In our research around the province, we have found that people are moving in varying directions,” he told trustees. “The two-week spring break, which was a novelty only a few years ago, is now, I won’t say the norm, but it is a predominant choice. There isn’t really a norm across the province as there once was.”

Trustee Danny White questioned the financial impact on the district of moving to a two-week break.

“We are going to say there is no financial impact,” said Taylor. “We anticipate some savings, but we also expect that’s probably optimistic.”

Trustee Corinne McLellan wanted to see a financial breakdown before making any decisions.

“Most boards that do a two-week break do it to save money, so I’m wondering how our district is managing to do it cost-neutrally,” she said. “For me, I need to see that it won’t cost the district money, and we’re not going to hurt our employees.”

Board chair Susan Barr was also ready to postpone making a decision because she had questions and concerns about employment contracts.

Trustee Janice Caton had no problem voting in favour of a two-week break Tuesday.

“I had nobody come back and say, ‘Please don’t do this,'” she said. “I believe the survey tells us it’s something parents and staff are looking forward to. We’re not eliminating school days. To me, it’s supporting our staff, our students and our district.”

The school calendar will come up again during a special board meeting May 10 at 7 p.m.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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