Whether School District 27 continues to have a fall break or a two-week spring break will be the hot topic of conversation in the coming months.
At its regular, public meeting held Tuesday evening, the board of trustees voted in favour of directing staff to examine calendar options and impacts for the 2020/2021 school year.
“Hey, I like having the two-week break thing, it’s awesome, but I’m always very mindful … if I increase days out (of school), for good reasons or not, I will be increasing hardship for some of our community. So I have to be very mindful, am I doing that for the right reasons,” said Superintendent Chris van der Mark. “I’m always mindful of the impacts of any decisions we make on those who don’t have the greatest advocacy and who we can create hardship (for) and it behooves us to keep that in front of our decision making. That’s critical.”
It’s been 14 years since a previous board voted to add nine non-instructional days to the school district’s calendar as a cost-saving measure, said Dean Coder, SD 27 Director of Instruction.
“Like many boards across the province, savings through modifying the school calendar were considered by deviating from the standard provincial spring break and other out-of-session days to reduce costs. Some calendars, such as the four-day week, an extended spring break, and a four-day fall break were examined,” said Coder, in a briefing note to trustees.
“The result was a four-day fall break and a two-week spring break— nine additional (out-of-session) days. The savings, at the time, was thought to be between $350,000 and $400,000, assuming appropriate reduction of work with buses not running, reduced clerical and custodial.”
Coder listed five points to consider moving forward with a decision; student learning, impact on families and community, instructional minutes minimums and maximums, fall break as mental health and recruitment and costs.
The board will look at all options before them, including the possibility of cancelling the existing fall break as well as making the spring break only one week.
“I’ve had some additional suggestions that we’ve heard around the table of maybe maintaining the fall break and having a one week spring break in its place,” Coder said.
“There is a whole group of possible ideas that are coming out of this conversation, but what we’re looking at right now is just to have the conversation. What is it we really want for our students? Do we still want that many out-of-session days?”
Coder said there are fewer students in the district now compared to 2005. He estimates it will cost the district roughly $100,000 to eliminate the fall break, and about $220,000 to operate for all nine of the not-in-session days added to the calendar in 2005.
Trustees asked Coder what consultation would look like, and he explained the district would survey staff and parents and compile the results.
“As a board you could look at all that feedback and … at what the board feels is best for students, and then draw a conclusion.”
Van der Mark pointed out he liked that Coder listed student learning at the top of the list of priorities while putting cost last.
“Let’s start and look at learning, let’s look at what it means to families across our communities. What are the options, what are the benefits?”
School District 27 is the only school district in the province that has a fall break.