No decision yet made on extended spring break

Chilliwack school district weighs its options for implementing a two-week spring break for the 2012-13 school year and beyond.

Despite 83 per cent in favour of a two-week spring break, Chilliwack school trustees were still divided on the issue.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board of education was advised to direct staff to negotiate with Chilliwack teachers and support staff to enable a two-week spring break for the 2012-13 school year, and to also develop a long-term plan to continue having extended spring breaks in the future.

However, trustees Doug McKay and Heather Maahs wanted to postpone action until the May 8 board meeting, noting complications that could arise from Bill 22 legislation.

When Bill 22 was imposed last month, a section was removed that took away flexibility from school districts to cut hours from staff, such as CUPE, which felt the largest brunt the last time the school district went to a two-week spring break.

Now, if school districts want to impose an alternate school calendar, they must negotiate separate agreements with the individual unions.

“I believe the changes to Bill 22, with the removal of section 78.1, may have implications for bargaining with the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association and the Canadian Union of Public Employers,” said McKay. “I don’t feel comfortable with the information at this time.”

McKay added in a somewhat secretive fashion that there were other not-yet-speakable options presented in the in-camera meeting that he believed should be discussed publicly before any decision was made.

“There are at least three to four other proposals discussed in the in-camera meeting that I believe need to be here,” McKay said. “They’re not here and I don’t believe that’s right.”

Maahs also felt uneasy moving forward.

“I feel like we need to make sure we have every option available to us … that will give us a wider breadth to make a fuller informed decision,” said Maahs.

But trustee Barry Neufeld said there was no reason to continue stalling, and trustee Walt Krahn said the favourable response from the community “is a very, very strong indicator that people support this idea.”

An online survey posted on the school district’s website from April 10-19 had 2,421 responses. Of those responses, 83 per cent were in favour, 13 per cent opposed and four per cent non-committal. Of parents who responded, 78 per cent were in favour, 20 per cent opposed, two per cent neutral. Ninety per cent of teachers and 74 per cent of support staff were also in favour.

McKay’s motion to postpone was denied.

A decision on extending spring break for the 2012-13 school year will be made at the May 8 meeting.

Chilliwack Progress related story 030112: Chilliwack school district eyes return to spring break