Quesnel students will have two weeks off for Spring Break next year, instead of just one.
At the Board of Education meeting last night (Mar. 14) in Quesnel, trustees passed a motion to implement a two-week Spring Break on a trial basis, for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 school years, with feedback sought from stakeholder groups (including the Quesnel District Teachers’ Association, Canadian Union of Public Employees [CUPE], the school board and senior team, and the Principals and Vice Principals Association) after the first year.
This will see students take an extra week next March, with Spring Break running from March 18 to 29 in 2019.
The decision comes after a Spring Break Committee, established in the spring of 2017, investigated the impact of the change.
School District #28 is currently one of just four districts in the province that does not have a two-week Spring Break, and trustees noted at the meeting they had long voted down the idea due to concerns about the educational impact on students.
Most districts have extended the break as a cost-saving measure; the Spring Break Committee found the total savings of a two-week break to the School District is $115,024, with most of that realized through not needing to pay CUPE staff wages for that time period.
CUPE members were surveyed, with results showing 77 per cent of those who replied (77 respondents) were in favour of a two-week break despite the loss of wages.
Community feedback was also sought from daycare providers, local First Nations groups and service agencies or partners (including the Ministry of Child & Family Development, Child Development Centre, Salvation Army, Quesnel Tillicum Society and the Quesnel & District Arts and Recreation Centre), as well as parents.
Seventy-five per cent of parents (726 respondents) were in favour of the extended break, citing parity with other districts, the opportunity for more family time and extra time for students and teachers to refresh.
The 25 per cent not in favour raised issues such as lost educational time, childcare costs and lost wages for staff members.
Trustee Tony Goulet spoke against the motion, saying that vulnerable students and the working poor would be most affected by the move.
“I’ve seen in the surveys that a lot of parents and staff see it as an opportunity for more family time and the ability to go on vacation. But not every family has that option, and our most vulnerable students are the ones that are most adversely affected by a two-week spring break.”
Goulet also expressed concern for children who rely on the school’s meal programs to receive enough nutritious food, as well as parents of children with special needs, who may have more trouble finding specialized childcare for an extended period of time.
“I think it’s a want versus a need, and I don’t think we should be making life more difficult for our vulnerable population.”
Goulet was the only trustee opposed to the motion, although others expressed reservations and supported the idea of implementing the extension on a trial basis, seeking feedback after the first year.
Board chairperson Gloria Jackson acknowledged that the extension is simply a cost-saving measure.
“We know that a two-week Spring Break is not educationally sound, and I’m one of the trustees who has sat here for the last 12 years and advocated to keep it to one week – for the vulnerable children, because of the education of the children – and no matter what we would find the money somewhere,” she said.
But she said she couldn’t ignore the savings, and the fact that the majority of all groups surveyed were in favour of the two-week break, while also acknowledging that vulnerable populations often do not respond to the surveys.
“I was interested to see there was minimal feedback on the vulnerable populations. That’s a tough one to swallow, because I know that those vulnerable families are the ones that don’t answer the surveys,” she commented.
This year’s Spring Break begins on Monday, Mar. 19, for just one week.