The Burnaby school district is considering moving to a two-week spring break, and members of the public are invited to voice their opinions on the matter.
The district is hosting a public consultation session on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m., at the Schou Education Centre, 4041 Canada Way. There is also an online survey for parents and district staff to fill out on the school district website, at www.sd41.bc.ca. Many Lower Mainland school districts have already switched from a one-week break to two weeks - in Vancouver's case, to save money - but Burnaby and New Westminster are the only remaining districts with a one-week holiday.
School board chair Baljinder Narang thinks the two-week break is a great opportunity for families, but she did have some concerns.
"I do worry about parents who do have challenges, who may not be in a position to take an extra week off, child-care arrangements have to be made, so there are all these big picture things that worry me," she said. "I'm hoping families will come out with their concerns."
The Burnaby school district estimates that moving to a two-week break would save $250,000 annually, which could offset projected funding shortfalls.
"Given that we have a shortfall of $6.6 million in the coming year and $7.6 million in 2014/15, (the savings) will go towards that for sure," Narang said.
The idea for Burnaby to move to a two-week break came up in December, during discussions between Metro Vancouver school board chairs and superintendents. According to the district, the move would benefit families with one parent working in one district but with kids attending school in another city, or two family members who work in different districts.
The Education Ministry still requires that students get the same amount of instructional time, so other districts have added eight minutes to each day for elementary students and nine minutes for secondary students, and Burnaby would likely do the same if the break were extended.
According to Narang, and based on her attendance during talks with other districts, there haven't been any negative impacts.
"Nobody talked about disadvantages," she said. "They found they had no significant difference allowing that two-week break. In fact, other districts are reporting students coming back more refreshed."
The challenge is for Burnaby teachers to cover the same curriculum with the time changes, Narang added.
The district has to submit its proposed calendar for the 2013/14 school year to the Education Ministry by March 31, so Narang is hoping to wrap up the consultation process by the end of February. After the Feb. 21 public consultation, and after the surveys are gathered, staff will review the results and prepare a report for the school trustees, who will likely vote on the issue at the March 26 school board meeting. If the board decides to move to a two-week break, the earliest to implement that would be March 2014.
For more information, or to fill out a survey online, go to www.sd41.bc.ca.