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Trustees revisiting extended spring break proposal

NANAIMO – School officials consider two-week spring break next year to save money.

Nanaimo school officials are considering giving students and staff a two-week spring break next year to save money.

Trustees at Wednesday’s board meeting voted to consult with the public on the extra five days off at the same time as the district consults on two other proposed changes to the traditional school calendar.

The other proposed changes are: organizing two in-service days for all employees, during which students would not attend class; and starting school one hour later on Wednesdays to allow school staff to meet to discuss teaching strategies.

Any changes to the school calendar require a 30-day public consultation and the calendar must be finished and submitted to the Education Ministry by the end of March, which is why the decision to consult on these calendar change proposals was made now.

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said the district could be facing a budget shortfall of up to $5 million next fall and trustees want to have as many money-saving options open to them as possible for the time being.

“There’s no certainty of any of this, but if we don’t put it on the list, then we can’t do it,” he said. “We may decide we need to save every nickel and dime we can.”

In 2011, a two-week spring break saved the district about $500,000, mostly in support staff wages, utilities and employee replacement costs, but trustees voted to keep the break at one week in 2012 and 2013 due to concerns the extra time off would create economic hardships for the district’s lowest-paid workers and for low-income families.

Of the 2,522 responses the district received to an online survey last year, 78.8 per cent of respondents stated they were in favour of the extended holiday, 18.9 per cent were against and 2.3 per cent were neutral.

Details of the consultation process will be available in the next week or so.