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Sooke School District moving to two-week spring break in 2015

Students in School District 62 will have double the fun next spring as the district switches to a two-week spring break.

The decision to schedule the break for March 9 to 20 in 2015 was made official last week at the March 25 school board meeting.

Board chair Wendy Hobbs said trustees received a considerable amount of feedback from parents, students, staff and others. Surveys showed opinions on the change were split almost evenly.

“Obviously with a decision like this we’ve had … a couple of emails from people not happy about it,” Hobbs said. “When you’re making a decision for almost 9,000 students, you know that you’re not going to make everybody happy.”

To make up the time, both for students to learn and teachers to earn, eight minutes will be added to each school day.

District superintendent Jim Cambridge confirmed the feedback was mixed, but said the change was inevitable, as the majority of districts in B.C.  – including Greater Victoria and Saanich –have made the switch to a two-week break.

“It’s become the norm throughout the province,” he said. “It’s a little bit about the district fitting in with other districts around us.”

The change will save the district money in on-call teacher salaries and utility bills for the schools. Cambridge expects savings of about $60,000 in employee costs and $20,000 to $30,000 in utilities. Compared to SD62’s $80-million budget the savings may seem small, but the district is under budget pressure and any savings help, he said.

The change will be hard for some families who may have trouble balancing work while having children out of school.

“That can put a hardship on a family and it was one of the things (the board) really struggled with,” Cambridge said.

In the end, a comment from a student won Hobbs’ support for the move. The student said the extra week would be helpful for studying and preparing for provincial exams.

“I thought (it) was a very unique statement coming from a student, that was very relevant to us,” Hobbs said.

Cambridge said anecdotal evidence also suggests the extra week off reduces the amount of  sick days taken by both students and teachers. He said they will have to wait until next year to see if this is true.

Teachers generally supported the move, Hobbs said, but were concerned about the impact to teachers on call. To address this, Hobbs said the board has put some money aside so on-call teachers can be paid while participating in district training.

kwells@goldstreamgazette.com

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