The Chilliwack school district will get a two-week spring break next year.
After rejecting an identical proposal for 2013, the school board voted Tuesday to combine spring break and Easter in 2015 for a two-week break.
The plan will mean four fewer instructional days in 2014-15, but elementary school students will still be within the range of instructional hours required by the ministry of education, and middle and high schools will make up the time by adding six minutes to every school day.
"There has been much talk about this for some time," trustee Barry Neufeld said, speaking in favour of the plan. "The staff wants it, at least half the parents are willing to consider it, and it would put us in sync with other school districts. I think it would increase staff morale and probably cut back on some absenteeism."
Board chair Walt Krahn said he supported the plan because a lot of students are absent on vacations between spring break and Easter anyway.
"Teachers are often hamstrung because they cannot move the lessons forward or the units forward because of the great deal of absenteeism."
The board had been looking into the possibility of an extended break since February 2012, and online surveys in 2012 and 2013 showed community support, according to a report by superintendent Evelyn Novak.
Although the district experimented with a two-week break in 2011 to save money, the extra four days off next year are expected to be cost neutral, according Novak.
One criticism of the extended break in 2011 was the loss of income for 10-month CUPE employees, but Novak said the district is working with the union to ensure that doesn't happen this time.
"The details have not been worked out," she said. "But there has been a commitment on both our parts to ensure that the 10-month employees are not impacted negatively."
The only trustee who spoke against an extended break in 2015 Tuesday was Doug McKay, who chastised the board and staff for not focusing more on how the move will impact student achievement.
"It's about parents, it's about the community, it's about employees, and I'm all for that, great. But nowhere can I find in any of our conversation where we have said, 'We believe this will have an educational impact on our kids,' and that saddens me greatly."
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