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UPDATE: Superintendent, teachers' association respond to recess cancellation
Abbotsford has joined 13 other B.C. school districts in cancelling recess at elementary and middle schools, citing the first phase of province-wide job action by teachers.
The cancellation begins on Monday and will continue until the job action has ended, said superintendent Kevin Godden in a letter distributed to parents on Wednesday and posted on the district website.
To compensate for the change, schools will begin 15 to 20 minutes later. High school schedules will not be affected.
As part of their ongoing negotiations with the B.C. Public School Employers' Association, the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) initiated job action on April 23 that involves teachers not performing any duties declared non-essential by the Labour Relations Board.
This includes the supervision of students outside of regularly scheduled classes.
During the job action, Godden said management staff – including principals, vice-principals, district managers and others, including himself – have been providing supervision during recess and before and after school at facilities where teachers normally handle this task.
Lunch-hour supervision has not been affected, as this duty is handled by paid supervisors or school administrators.
Godden said the extra duties have created a challenge for district staff, who have been driving to and from their assigned supervision site up to three times a day, taking up to two hours out of their schedules.
"It has created a tremendous backlog for people," he said.
Godden said, in response to concerns from parents, that kids get classroom breaks "all the time" as part of the school curriculum; recess just happens to be built into the timetable.
He encouraged parents to talk to their children's teacher if they are concerned about insufficient breaks and/or snack times.
Godden requested that parents arrange to have their children at school close to the starting time and to leave immediately after dismissal, as management staff continue to provide supervision during these times at schools where required.
District bus transportation schedules are being adjusted to align with revised school start times.
Godden said parents of elementary children who take a school bus will be contacted to confirm the pickup times.
He said it is anticipated that bus pickup times for middle and secondary students will not be affected.
Doug Smuland, president of the Abbotsford District Teachers’ Association (ADTA), stated in a letter to members that the decision to cancel recess is “not appropriate.”
“Management staff has done the supervision before, and they should be able to do it again, as there is no sound reason why children in Abbotsford should have to lose out on recess when most other districts have found coverage for the children's important 15 minutes on the playground," he wrote.
Smuland stated the district made the decision to cancel recess without any discussion with the ADTA "nor did they express any concern that the current supervision structure was untenable."
Shortly after teachers' job action began, several school districts announced they were cancelling recess. These included Prince George, Quesnel, Prince Rupert, Central Okanagan and Bulkley Valley.
At the time, BCTF president Jim Iker condemned the action, saying it was "unnecessary and inappropriate."
He said that principals, vice-principals and other staff were "more than capable" of supervising the playground for 15 minutes each day.
"Any recess cancellations falls squarely on the shoulders of school districts unwilling to move their staff around," Iker said in a written statement.