More holidays for students in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

SD 42 trustees support two-week spring break

More holidays for students in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Students at Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows public schools will be getting an extra week off for spring break next year, after school board trustees voted in favour of a cost-cutting measure to trim six days off the 2011/12 calendar, Wednesday night.

The move is expected to save the district more than $190,000 as it faces a $2.2 million short fall for the 2011/12 fiscal year.

Board chair Ken Clarkson said the need to cut school days was a result of underfunded public education by the provincial government.

“It’s about money, not about education … and we have to take steps to stop the bleeding” he said.

Trustees were presented with five options by district staff, voting 4-2 in favour of Option A, which will extend spring break to two weeks from one, with an added day off in November, turning the Remembrance Day holiday into a four-day weekend.

To make up for the lost time, 10 minutes will be added to each school day. The district is also adopting common start and stop times for all schools, and will be coordinating all six professional development days.

Trustees Susan Carr and Kathie Ward spoke out against the spring break extension, ultimately voting against it.

Carr sought support for Option E, which would have seen no change at all, while Ward wanted to go with Option C, which would have coordinated start/stop times at schools across the district, but kept spring break as it is for minimal savings.

“For our average students, the loss of days in the classroom will be far more detrimental than having the extra week off,” said Ward. “And where does it end? Are we going to be back here next year talking about stretching it to three weeks?

“We need to exhaust all options, I don’t think every rock has been turned over.”

The majority of trustees felt extending spring break was necessary to help balance the district’s budget, and offered the least amount of harm to students.

“I have concerns about staying with the status quo,” said Vdovine. “In reality, there is no such thing as no change. [We’ll be looking] at laying off teachers, laying off specialists, laying off librarians. That is the impact of no change.”

While trustee Mike Huber voted in favour of extending spring break, he noted the change would cut hours for substitute teachers.

“This does affect teachers, because it reduces the [substitute teacher] pool,” said Huber, who’s wife is a substitute teacher with School District No. 42. “[Substitute teachers] could choose to work in other districts as a result.”

Trustees decided not to adopt Option D, which would have extended spring break while honouring a previous agreement with the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association to allow individual schools the autonomy to select the dates for two professional development days, despite the fact the projected savings were just $4,000 less than Option A.

Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra said that by picking Option A, trustees ignored all the work that had been done by teachers to reach that agreement.

“We trust the district, and we trust the district to stick to the commitment it made to teachers,” he said. “For that to mean nothing, it’s very disappointing.”

After the meeting, both Clarkson and trustee Stepan Vdovine said the decision may have been an oversight on the part of trustees.

“Our relationship with teachers is still very strong,” said Vdovine. “We will continue to talk about how we can resolve this.”