Tracy Hughes, Salmon Arm Observer editor

Tracy Hughes, Salmon Arm Observer editor

Spring break has a cost

Spring break – two weeks when your kids get time off and you still have to go to work.

Just a reminder. It’s spring break in the school district.

You know, two weeks when your kids get time off and you still have to go to work.

The two-week spring break was brought into the North Okanagan Shuswap School District as a cost-saving measure.

You see, during the break, the school district is saving money on wages. For example, certified education assistants and bus drivers only get paid when school is in session. Another saving comes from having the schools closed, which means heating, maintenance and gas costs are reduced.

Now, the vast majority of B.C. school districts have two-week breaks. Students still get the same amount of educational time, which is mandated by the Ministry of Education, but schools make up the extra days off by adding a few minutes into each school day.

Of the 60 school districts, only seven, including Kamloops-Thompson, will have one-week spring breaks as of next year. A recent debate in that city over whether to return to a one-week break, sparked considerable discussion at the that board, In the end, the board voted to return to a one-week break, if the situation can be negotiated with the applicable unions.

The idea was that school districts went to a two-week break to save money, however, School District #73 in Kamloops wants to act in a way that is best for students, not for the bottom line.

There is some research-based evidence that supports a one-week break as a more educationally sound process, than the extended two-week vacation from school.

This is backed by the year-round schooling movement, which cites examples that a two-month extended summer break also has an impact on students’ ability to learn and retain material.

And while there are plenty of parents who support a two-week spring break, there is an economic cost to the plan.

I was reminded of this as I went to pick up lunch from a downtown restaurant the other day and noticed one of the workers had her children set up at a table colouring and playing quiet games.

“Spring break,” she said with an resigned shrug.

“Don’t apologize,” I said, knowing full well the challenges facing working parents when it comes to child care.

Many working parents can not afford to take the time off and head somewhere for a family vacation. Instead, they scramble to find ways to cover care for their kids. They lean on friends or relatives, they rely on generous bosses who allow some flexibility or even a table in their restaurant, or they fork out cash to pay for someone to watch their children.

In essence, with the government pressures on funding the education system, a two-week break is merely a tax increase in disguise. Parents, indirectly, are paying the cost for underfunding that sparked the two-week break in the first place.

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