Spring break will stay at one week for Ladysmith and Nanaimo students

School District 68 trustees voted 6-1 against extending spring break to two weeks next year.

Spring break will remain at one week for Ladysmith and Nanaimo students next year.

School District 68 trustees voted 6-1 against extending spring break to two weeks next year at a special board meeting last Wednesday.

The move, which would have combined spring break and the Easter holiday and added an additional four days off, was expected to save the district about $366,000, mostly in support staff wages, employee replacement costs and utilities.

But school board chairman Jamie Brennan said trustees who opposed the extension argued the extra time off would result in economic hardships for the district’s lowest-paid workers and for low-income families.

The move is not necessary, as the district will balance next year’s budget with surplus money carried over from this year, he added, and a major goal for trustees is improving labour relations — a goal that would be furthered by not reducing the hours of support workers.

“We don’t need the money this time,” said Brennan. “We asked ourselves, ‘Well, why are we doing this?’”

Staff suggested the money from the extended spring break could be used for initiatives such as upgrading technology in schools.

But Brennan said the district is expected to finish the year with a $700,000 surplus on top of the money being used to balance next year’s budget, and he wants to see that money used to start funding the technology plan.

“The cost of year one of the plan is $350,000,” he said. “Personally, I’d be willing to take a chance and spend that chunk of the surplus.”

Of the 2,522 responses the district received to an online survey, 78.8 per cent stated they were in favour of the extended holiday, 18.9 per cent were against and 2.3 per cent were neutral.

Just over half of respondents identified themselves as parents, more than 14 per cent identified themselves as students and almost 14 per cent listed themselves as teachers.

Justin Green, first vice-president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said the union is not opposed to the school calendar change, as long as the district modifies the collective agreement to recognize the change.

“We’re a little bit surprised actually,” he said. “We’d already started conversations with the board. There’s not too many people who don’t enjoy a two-week spring break.”

Ron Farino, president of CUPE local 606, said the decision is good news.

“We’re happy because they’ve recognized CUPE members as a valuable workforce in the district,” he said.

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