Nanaimo parents aren’t pleased about recess changes

Nanaimo parents are unhappy about the district's decision to move the morning break to after school.

Nanaimo parents are unhappy about the district’s decision to move the morning break to after school.

Recess will be moved to the end of the day in elementary schools starting Oct. 31 and parents can pick their children up 15 minutes early.

The change is due to teacher job action, said district spokeswoman Donna Reimer, adding that if parents can’t pick their children up 15 minutes earlier, supervision will still be provided.

Since school started last month, teachers have refused non-essential duties, such as playground supervision and report cards.

District management have helped school administrators with recess and before- and after-school supervision duties – the district has noon-hour supervisors who watch students – and Reimer said the change will reduce the number of times management have to drive to school sites.

“Many of them are losing an hour or two a day from their work day,” she said. “We’re finding it hard to schedule any sort of meetings. People are working evenings and weekends and still not keeping up with their workloads.”

Reimer said after seven weeks, officials determined the current level of supervision cannot be sustained without serious impact to district operations.

“It appears to us that this could go on for quite a long period of time,” she said. “If you can’t see an end in sight, at some point you have to look for other ways to handle the situation.”

Nanaimo teachers are entitled, through their collective agreement, to a 15-minute recess break, said Reimer, so the district is unable to cancel recess altogether like some districts have done.

If fewer students need supervision after school because they are being picked up earlier, it could mean fewer management staff are needed for supervision duties, she added.

Some parents are unhappy with the change.

Jennifer King, a member of the District Parent Advisory Council with two elementary school-aged boys, said not having a break in the morning will be hard on children and she’s worried it could translate into behaviour problems in the classroom.

“This one will tick parents off and upset the children,” she said. “I’ve never heard of a break when your day is done. It’s just so ridiculous.”

Hollie Tarasewich, DPAC president, wonders how students – especially kindergarten students – will go from 9 a.m. to noon without a break.

So far the job action has not had much impact on the classroom, she said, but she expects to hear from parents following this change.

“I’m going to tell parents to show up at recess,” said Tarasewich.

The lack of report cards will also concern many parents if they think teachers aren’t sharing adequate information with parents about how their children are doing, she added.