For the second year in a row, efforts to carve out a two-week spring break for the Chilliwack school district have failed because negotiations between district officials and local teachers and CUPE employees ran out of time.
The school board will now vote on a single, one-week spring break option for the 2013-14 school year Tuesday.
There was "significant dialogue" with the Chilliwack Teachers' Association and CUPE around a second, two-week option that would see minutes added to the school day, but a "satisfactory agreement could not be reached" in time to present that option to the board for next year, according to a staff report in Tuesday's agenda.
According to legislation passed last spring, school boards have to make their proposed school calendars public one month before submitting them to the education ministry to give parents and employees a chance to comment.
This year that deadline is Feb. 28.
The district ran out of time last year too when it tried to find a way to extend this year's break and connect it to the Easter holidays, which are only four days later.
An electronic survey showed 83 per cent of 2,421 respondents (mostly parents) favoured a two-week break, so the board directed staff to try to work out a plan with the CTA and CUPE and to pursue a long-term plan for a two-week spring vacation every year.
But those negotiations were stymied by the "bookends" stipulated in the CTA's collective agreement.
According to that contract, days in the local school year have to be scheduled between the Tuesday after Labour Day and the last Friday in June.
District staff had proposed moving some of the teachers' professional development days into the summer, but teachers wouldn't budge, proposing instead to add minutes to the school day to make a two-week break possible-something the board had directed staff not to do.
The bookends came up again this year, according to CTA president Clint Johnston, with the district proposing one PD day in August along with minutes added to the school day.
The CTA's traditional stance has been against allowing the district to encroach on the two-month summer break out-lined in its collective agreement, but Johnston said he didn't have time to poll members about this year's proposal before the district's deadline.
"I don't think it would serve the members well to rush through something that could potentially be a big decision," Johnston said.
Teachers have since voted on the issues but Johnston wouldn't say what the results were.
He did say the CTA would use the information to prepare for what he hopes will be ongoing discussion about next year's calendar.
"Next time this comes around, it won't be a rush to find out what [teachers] think," Johnston said. "We'll have a well-thought-out, well-presented process."
In an email to the Times, superintendent Evelyn Novak reiterated the conclusion of the report in Tuesday's agenda, saying the district is committed to ongoing discussions with its employee groups to come up with a two-week spring break option for the 2014-15 school year.
? Tonight's (Tuesday's) regular public school board meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the school district office (8430 Cessna Dr.).
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