Instead of approving seven district closure days in both the 2013-2014 and 2014-15 school years, the Vancouver School Board passed a district calendar March 4 that will see five district closure days precede spring break, extending it to two weeks next year.
That’s the same number of district closure days instituted this school year.
The district calendar committee, which includes representatives of employee groups, management and parents, “reluctantly supported the need for district closure days,” according to a survey the board ran on its website. Superintendent Steve Cardwell recommended the same number of days after the results to the survey were tabulated.
School closures save the district approximately $100,000 a day, mostly from on-call employee costs, according to Mike Lombardi, Vision Vancouver school board vice chair and chair of the board’s management and coordinating committee. “We’re obviously doing it for cost savings only, and there’s no educational value,” he said Monday. “And we know that this brings unnecessary hardship for a lot of the parents on the East Side of Vancouver especially, having to make childcare arrangements and all those kinds of things.”
The board now projects a budget shortfall of $10.3 million for 2013-14, with updated figures to come. Lombardi noted the District Parent Advisory Council preferred five closure days to seven. He said other Metro Vancouver school districts except for Burnaby, which is still consulting about closures, have extended next year’s spring break.
More survey respondents supported closure days being set for multiple school years, but the board decided only on the schedule for 2013-2014.
“There’re so many changes going on with the school calendar right now, [with] the prospect of a new government, there might be changes in the regulations,” Lombardi said. “At this point people thought there was too much instability.”
The VSB’s projected deficit for the 2013-14 year has fallen by approximately half. The board previously expected a shortfall of $20 million to $24 million for 2013-2014. The revised projected shortfall is estimated to be $10.3 million. More than $9 million in savings have been found. The board saved money from filling more temporary vacant positions with teachers on call and less sick leave taken by teachers, among a number of areas.
This $10.3 million projected shortfall is expected to be updated imminently.