Trustees to vote on school calendar for Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows

Three of five proposed options support a two-week spring break

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school trustees have five options to choose from this Wednesday as they decide how the 2011-2012 school calendar and timetable will look.

The local school district put out a proposal last month for a two-week spring break with coordinated timetable for secondary and elementary schools.

The school district is claiming a $2.2 million shortfall for the coming year, and the changes are meant help balance the district’s budget, says district superintendent Jan Unwin.

Of the five options, three involve a two-week spring break and common start/stop times, while one option would just implement the common start/stop times for schools, and the final option would include no change at all.

After a month of public consultation that included an online parent survey and public meetings, district staff opted to offer five options instead of the original single option at the behest of trustees.

“The trustees said they wanted options, and they asked us not to recommend any one,” said Unwin. “Whatever they choose, they will have the best information before them.”

The options themselves could still be amended by trustees if there were aspects they wanted to change, she added.

The three extended spring break options are expected to save the district between $160,000 to $192,000, by district estimates. If trustees opt to reject the two-week spring break, the district will have to find those savings elsewhere, and that could be a difficult prospect, said Unwin.

Jan Unwin

“We are in tight budget times, and there’s very few places to find big savings,” she said. “It’s wasted money if we continue going the way we’re going.”

A report on the proposed changes by the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association indicates support for the two-week spring break. However, the district’s initial recommendation for six common professional development days is at odds with an agreement made with teachers for four common pro-D days and two to be determined by individual schools.

“If the current proposed alternate calendar gets approved with six common non-instructional days, then we are left in the unfortunate position of not being able to trust the district,” states MRTA president George Serra in the report.

District staff have included an option that features four common pro-D days.

CUPE staff is also supporting the two-week spring break proposal, which won’t result in a reduction of working hours, according to district staff.

The recently completed online parent survey saw the district receive more than 1,200 responses. Of those respondents, 62.6 per cent favoured the proposed change to a two-week spring break, and the coordinated timetable it would require.

At elementary schools with early Friday dismissals, parents were roughly split 50/50 on the proposed changes, which would mean the loss of those early dismissals. Parents at secondary schools, meanwhile, voted 75.8 per cent in favour of a two-week spring break.

While Unwin said she was pleased with the amount of respondents, it still represents a small portion of parents in the district.

“We won’t find out what the other 20,000 think until after,” she said.