Decision on spring break extension pending in Nanaimo

Nanaimo trustees will decide whether to extend the spring break from one week to two for a second year at a public meeting Monday.

What difference is one week?

Nanaimo trustees will decide whether to extend the spring break from one week to two for a second year at a public meeting Monday.

But as of Tuesday afternoon, no one had signed up to speak to trustees about the effects of the district’s first try at the extended holiday, said Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman.

About 1,500 people responded to the district’s online survey on the issue – more than last year’s 1,217 responses – and the board office also received 12 letters. Reaimer couldn’t say how many were in favour and how many opposed.

Feedback was due Tuesday at midnight.

“I think it’s quite encouraging that we had that many responses,” said Reimer.

Last year, 62 per cent of respondents were in favour of the change, while 31 per cent were opposed and seven per cent neutral.

Nanaimo students had their first taste of a two-week spring break this year, returned to class this week.

Trustees voted in favour of the change for the same reason it is being considered again – to save money.

The estimated savings are about $500,000 in utilities and wages for support staff paid by the hour – such as custodians, secretaries and education assistants – as well as teachers-on-call. To make up for the extra five days off, teachers keep classes an extra eight or nine minutes per day.

Rob Zver, president of CUPE local 606, the union that represents the district’s support staff, said he is still collecting feedback from members and will likely present to trustees Monday.

But most people won’t feel the impact of the extra week off until Friday’s pay period, he said.

“I’m going to try to do something,” said Zver. “There’s 400-plus people that were affected by that additional week. It impacts their pension down the road, their long-term goals.”

Education assistants tell Zver they are staying for the extra minutes in the school day, even though they are not paid for them, because they don’t want to get up and leave students.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said the union will probably make a presentation because teachers-on-call, many of whom already live below the poverty line, are affected.

He’s heard comments from some teachers that the extra time added onto each day do not compare to losing a week of instruction.

“It’s hard to break math lessons up into eight-minute chunks,” said DeGear.

People wishing to make a presentation can contact Cathy Kelt at 250-741-5238 or by noon Friday (April 1).

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