School board debates length of spring break

Parksville Qualicum Beach school district discusses option of making spring break 2014 one week instead of two

Whether students will have a one or two-week spring break next year was a hot topic at the school board meeting Tuesday.

The debate started when a draft amended calendar was presented showing the previously slotted two week spring break reduced to one week.

When asked by an audience member, secretary treasurer Erica Bailey confirmed if changed back to a one-week break, it would add about another $200,000 to the already $1.2 million budget shortfall for next year.

Superintendent Jim Ansell answered a question about why the week was taken away in the amended calendar. He said the local teachers association brought forward three grievances regarding the initial calendar draft and the process, and to fight those would cost thousands of dollars.

“It was felt this was not a matter we were willing to take as a hill to die on, so we chose to say fine, if there’s a grievance about the process then we will return to the standard calendar as opposed to fighting those grievances,” he said. “So it was one of those decisions we were forced to make.”

A parent voiced that she was in favour of the two weeks and it seemed like district staff were just throwing their hands up. Chair of the District Parent Advisory Council Renate Child said she was dissapointed with the restructuring and in favour of the two weeks.

Local CUPE President Lisa Paine said the two weeks off pains her members, as the district savings come from unpaid days to CUPE, and it also means less days supporting students. But she understands the decision was made in previous years to save money.

Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association president Deb Morran told The NEWS after the meeting that the initial calendar brought forward to her members was not in compliance with their collective agreement and if it was, the district wouldn’t have had to entertain the notion of arbitration.

The problem was the teachers were not given the chance to discuss the calendar at all, she said.

“In other years we always have those discussions,” she said. “This year was distinctly different.”

That was why they filed the grievances, she said, and it doesn’t mean they don’t want the two-week break. No final decision has been made, they are back to square one, she said, and a meeting will now take place in March to have those discussions.

• Committees have been formed representing each area of the school district looking to find savings to meet a $1.2 million budget shortfall.

The committees: education, administration, transportation and operations, are mandated to find 10 per cent savings in each of their areas, plus their priorities. Reports are due next week and will be reported at the next board meeting.

 

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