The Abbotsford board of education voted 4-3 Monday night in favour of retaining the current school calendar and the two-week March spring break for the 2011-12 school year.
Voting in favour of the status quo calendar – one of three options on the table – were trustees John Sutherland, Joanne Field, Preet Rai and Uultsje DeJong. They said, in part, that they wanted to side with parents’ wishes.
A school calendar survey conducted by the school district resulted in 92 per cent of the 1,664 respondents saying they supported maintaining the status quo.
Chairperson Cindy Schafer and trustees Shirley Wilson and Korky Neufeld were opposed, favouring a school calendar that provided more full days of education rather than extra minutes added to each day in order to accommodate the second week of spring vacation.
Elementary students currently have eight minutes added to each day, while high school students have an additional nine minutes.
Sutherland said he voted to keep the two-week break because the research he found showed that extra minutes per day are more beneficial than adding full days.
“There are doubtless things we could be doing that would make our world-class district even better, but playing off days against minutes is not one of them,” he said.
Although DeJong voted to keep the two-week break, he said he was concerned that it might be too much time off school for “vulnerable” students.
Neufeld said the existing calendar provides too many days away from the classroom for all students, and he would not support it.
“I’m a member of the board of education, not the board of vacation.”
In February, the board proposed a revised school calendar that called for moving the two-week spring break to April, holding Christmas vacation later, and removing the extra minutes from each day, resulting in six additional instructional days at an approximate cost of $409,000.
Schafer said she thought that trustees, in consultation with staff, had used some “creative problem solving” to balance the concerns about keeping the two-week break while providing additional days of instruction.
They introduced the status quo option in March, after receiving overwhelming response opposing the proposed new calendar.
Schafer said the calendar issue is a difficult matter, and must be discussed every time the Ministry of Education’s standard calendar – providing a one-week spring break – is not followed.
“Believe me when I say, this is not the way this board gets its kicks,” she said.
The three options considered were the status quo calendar, the new proposal, and the ministry’s standard version.