School District 57 made official its biggest show of support Tuesday for the Canada Winter Games .
School board trustees voted in favour of an unprecedented school calendar that would coincide spring break with the 2015 sports and culture event, despite it being two consecutive weeks and much earlier than usual.
It wasn't an easy decision, however.Trustees talked of the backlash they experienced from some in the public and concerns raised by staff during the past couple of years of consultation on this one-time concept.
The primary themes were that the two-week break was too long without an education period and the ensuing stretch of education was too long without a break period. There would be no prolonged break for staff and students from the end of the winter games in early March through to the end of the school year.
The district's calendar committee considered several suggestions, including forcing the 2015 statutory holidays into a spring cluster to break up that long operational period. In the end, it was decided to leave the statutory holidays where they are between the closing ceremonies and the end of the school year.
It may create challenges, said assistant superintendent Lisa Carson, who was part of the team examining the potential problems and resolutions.
"While the committee agreed that the scheduling of spring break in February may create challenges for schools, students, staff and families, it was unable to reach agreement on any actions that could be taken...that would not create further challenges," said Carson.
The Ministry of Education allows individual districts to make their own decisions about structuring their operational calendars, but they must do so by a prescribed deadline and with mandatory public input. Tuesday's vote concluded that process.
Trustee Brenda Hooker mentioned that some of the criticism came from people who didnt know or understand why the two-week break was set for February, 2015 in the first place.
There were some misconceptions, she said. The February spring break was a commitment made in 2010, in order to accommodate the Canada Winter Games bid. That promise was important for the bid package, to convince the national Games officials that Prince George was serious about positioning the city to host the 18-day extravaganza. Freeing students, staff, parents and all those connected to the school district would be a positive influence on the volunteer roster, the potential audience, the pool of officials, and perhaps even athletes from the city who might be in competition at the Games.
Trustee Kate Cooke added that the Games would more easily be able to use School District 57 buildings and other resources if regular operations were not going on inside them at the same time.
I do have concerns over a two-week break and the impacts that has on families who have to arrange daycare - especially our working poor, said trustee Tim Bennett. I dont always support a two-week break but we will honour the commitment to the Canada Winter Games.
The motion was unanimously carried. Next year's spring break will happen from Feb. 14 to March 1 - an exact overlay of the Canada Winter Games schedule. After that, there will be three non-instructional days (staff are required to work those) and three statutory holidays over the remaining 17 weeks of classes.
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