Seven district closure days are proposed for each of the next two school years, an increase of two days from the 2012-2013 school year. The Vancouver School Board instituted five closure days for this school year and 10 in each of the two previous years.
Two of the days would flank Remembrance Day, creating a five-day weekend, and the other five would extend spring break in March to two weeks.
Closure days are meant to offset reported funding shortfalls from the provincial government.
The VSB projects a $24 million shortfall for the 2013-2014 school year, according to a survey about the proposed calendars for the next two years on the board's website.
School closures save the district approximately $100,000 a day, mostly from on-call employee costs, says Mike Lombardi, Vision Vancouver school board vice chair and chair of the board's management and coordinating committee. The closures could save the board $1.4 million over two years.
The board's recently released online survey about the school calendar is open until Feb. 28. Respondents are asked to identify their level of agreement with using closure days to reduce VSB costs.
"We'll see what the survey says and in the end it'll be a majority decision of trustees," Lombardi said. "They'd rather have the kids have the full calendar. On the other hand, they're facing a $20-million shortfall and that amount of money would result in fewer teachers in the system, so it's going to be a tough one. But we'll listen to what the feedback is and put that into context and make a decision which we think is best for the district."
The district calendar committee, which includes representatives of employee groups, management and parents, "reluctantly supported the need for district closure days," according to the survey.
Approximately 80 minutes (16 minutes to each school day) are added each week to maintain instructional time.
Lombardi said superintendent Steve Cardwell recently told committee members, "in his view, it's not an educationally sound way to proceed and that making up for those lost days in extra minutes is not
Lombardi said substitute teachers are concerned about closures because those are days they definitely won't be called in to work.
"The [B.C.] Teachers' Federation has expressed their concern about that," he said, adding, "We've also noticed that there have been fewer absences throughout the year."
Lombardi noted the board is concerned about potentially increased childcare costs for parents and reported increased costs for non-profit groups that support vulnerable students.
The school board gave KidSafe, which offers supervised activities for students of inner city schools when school isn't in session, a $25,000 grant last year to alleviate some of the strain.
The school calendar also calls for four common non-instructional, or professional development, days and two that would be flexible. Vacation and closure days are the same for each school district-wide.
The management and coordinating committee will discuss the calendars Feb. 12. The board will make a decision March 4.
For more information, visit vsb.bc.ca and under "current issues" on the left side of the page, select "calendar survey."
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