Saanich school district weighs value of two-week spring break

Decision on longer break for students expected May 2

A decision on spring break is expected Wednesday night during a Saanich school district budget meeting.

The board must find more than $2.8 million to make this year’s budget work and extending spring break from one to two weeks is among the considerations. They face a near-$1 million drop in the operating grant, the same in structural deficit and a recommended $1 million into contingency.

“We have budget pressures that others don’t because of our declining enrolment,” said chair Wayne Hunter. “The government has said they will fund us at 98.5 per cent of what they did last year.”

That works in Saanich’s favour because the drop in student enrolment is expected near the 250 pupil mark, which would reduce the funding more than 98.5 per cent.

With lower enrolment will come fewer teaching positions, about seven is the expectation.

However, a two week spring break and increase in international students are among considerations expected to be finalized tonight.

The extra week of shut down would provide $150,000 in savings.

“None of our employees would lose their pay because we would add eight extra minutes a day,” Hunter said. “Half the districts in British Columbia seem to be doing this successfully.”

Parent Barry Mosher opposes an extra week of spring break for both monetary and educational reasons.

“Wanting a buffer doesn’t mean you have a shortfall,” Mosher said of the budget. “At the end of the day, basically the only thing they’re cutting is this one week of school and they have a 500,000 surplus.” He points to a surplus rolled over from last year – savings that go along with declining enrolment – and holds out questions as to whether the real savings would be $150,000 with an extra week of school closures.

“Even if I accepted their numbers as they are, $150,000 for one week of school is not good savings,” said Mosher, who has two kids attending Deep Cove elementary and one at Bayside middle school. “If I want my kids to be in school because it gives them more time for learning … I think it’s better that kids have more time at school.”

He sees the savings being downloaded onto parents.

“It’s saving the district a little bit and costing parents a whole lot,” he said. “I would like [my kids] to have that week of schooling.”

Nearby Greater Victoria school board already has a two week spring break while last week, Sooke school district rejected the option of extending its break as a cost saving measure.

“The first issue is dealing with budget, do we have a two week spring break or not?” said Hunter.

If they opt for the longer break, they will deal with the topic of when at the May 16 board meeting.

The board expects to make a decision during a special budget meeting Wednesday, May 2 at 7 p.m. at the board office, 2125 Keating X Rd.

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