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Would two-week spring break fly?

Burnaby school board chair Baljinder Narang -
Burnaby school board chair Baljinder Narang
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The Burnaby Teachers' Association (BTA) could be willing to look into the idea of a two-week spring break according to a motion on the agenda of its general meeting on Jan. 22.

The motion calls on the BTA to lobby the Burnaby school board to "co-sponsor an outside report with submissions from all stakeholders" on the pros and cons of a two-week break which, it says, saves other Lower Mainland school districts $200,000 to $500,000 each school year.

BTA vice-president Patrick Parkes said the motion did not come from the BTA executive but rather from members who are interested in the topic. He stressed that the BTA has not taken a position on the issue.

But "it's a major topic of discussion among some members," he said.

In the Lower Mainland, only Burnaby and New Westminster, still have only a one-week spring break. The two-week school closures were implemented in other districts in the last few years as a cost-cutting measure.

Parkes said he doesn't personally have strong feelings about the issue either way and could see both the positives and negatives.

"I think it's a healthy and necessary part of being a human being to have some down time where you can just think about things and engage your creativity."

It can also give teachers some time to catch up to marking or lesson planning, since B.C. teachers get half the amount of paid planning time than their counterparts in Ontario, he said.

On the other hand, a longer spring break could be a hardship for some families who can't afford the additional childcare. And the BTA would want to make sure teachers on call don't see their wages cut as a result.

Burnaby school board chair Baljinder Narang said up until now, the district hasn't followed others in implementing the longer break simply because "there didn't seem to be any kind of push for it."

However, it's increasingly causing difficulties for families where parents, teachers and school staff might not be on the same vacation schedule as their children.

"If we assume everyone lives in Burnaby and works in Burnaby, then yeah, we don't have a problem. But I think that's not the reality."

As for the cost-cutting aspect, Narang said, "to play that down would be naive ... but we have to balance that out with what our partner groups feel, our teachers, our CUPE workers, our support staff, our parents."

A longer break would require that the week of instructional time that's lost be made up in some other way.

The school district is already actively looking into both sides of the issue. Any changes would be somewhat easier to make now that the Education Ministry is allowing individual districts to set their own calendars.

As for the BTA's upcoming motion, Narang said, "It just tells me we are probably on the same page."

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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