Delegations oppose Abbotsford school calendar proposal

The proposed changes to the 2011-12 Abbotsford school district calendar will inconvenience families and impact sports and cultural activities, speakers told the board of education Monday night.
The six delegations who spoke were all opposed to the changes, saying the calendar should stay as it is.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," said Jeff Dunton, president of the Abbotsford District Teachers' Association.
Trustees have proposed a calendar that maintains the two-week spring break in 2012, but changes the dates to April 2-13 to coincide with Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Spring break is normally held in March, with one of the two weeks in Abbotsford held over the same dates as the one-week vacation held in most other districts.
The proposal also moves the Christmas break from Dec. 23 to Jan. 9 in 2011-12, and adds an additional six instructional days by removing eight minutes from each elementary school day and nine minutes from high schools.
Trustees have said full instructional days are more beneficial than adding minutes to each school day, despite the additional $409,000 in costs for the six days.
The speakers at Monday's meeting did not agree.
"The data that was collected as requested by trustees last year in regards to this issue has failed to provide any proof or evidence that supports this position," said Rhonda Pauls, past chair of the District Parents' Advisory Council.
She said students are succeeding under the current system, with the district's six-year graduation completion rate five per cent above the provincial average.
Speakers also opposed the additional costs of the full instructional days, pointing out that a tight 2010-11 budget led to cuts in staffing and other areas last spring.
Noel Neufeld, a Dunach Elementary parent, said it was " a slap in the face" that trustees would consider such additional expense given the decision they made in November to permanently close Dunach at the end of June. The board said the closure would save $560,000 in annual costs, as well as $2.8 million in building upgrades.
The delegations were also opposed to making any change in the dates for the spring and Christmas breaks.
Ken Laity of the Abbotsford Mission School Sports Association said tournaments are scheduled in other districts and throughout the province based on the March spring break.
This means Abbotsford athletes could be faced with giving up their April spring break to participate, or teams could end up short-handed and have to forfeit.
Arts, cultural and recreational programs that Abbotsford students participate in, in other parts of the province, are often held during the March spring break, speakers said. This could result in local students having to miss school to participate during that time.
Dunton said changing the spring and Christmas breaks will also impact the 700 teachers who work in Abbotsford but live in another community, where their children would have a different vacation period.
The public may respond to the proposed changes by completing the online survey at or the paper survey available at local schools. Written submissions to the board of education are accepted until March 4.
The board votes on the matter March 28 at 7:30 p.m. at its regular public meeting.

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