B.C.'s 2-week spring break saves money for schools while parents pay the cost

Spring break was extended in most B.C. schools in 2010 as a way for school boards to save money. With the current NDP government promising to invest more in education, some are questioning whether the longer penny-pinching holiday is still necessary.

Extending spring break was a 'budget driven decision' in 2010 — is it time to reverse it?

Each additional day classes are cancelled saves the school board about $100,000, says Patti Bacchus. (The Associated Press)

Most schools across British Columbia are coming up to the halfway mark of their two-week spring break, but it wasn't too long ago that a one-week break was the norm.

Spring break was extended in many B.C. school districts in 2010 as a way for school boards to save money.

With the current NDP government promising to invest more in education, some British Columbians are questioning whether the longer penny-pinching holiday is still necessary.

"It absolutely was a budget driven decision. It was never about being a great idea," said Patti Bacchus, a former trustee and chair of the Vancouver School Board.

Under the former B.C. Liberal government, funding for schools was barely keeping up with inflation, and school boards had to scrounge to balance their budgets each year.

"After we had been cutting teachers and administrators and turning down the heat and cutting back on textbooks, staff started saying 'Well, what if we closed the schools a few more days?" she told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

Each additional day classes are cancelled saves the school board about $100,000, Bacchus said.

But that's a cost that doesn't disappear completely, and Bacchus said it's simply passed on to families instead, many of whom struggle with finding child care during the extra time off.

"It's definitely a strain on families," Bacchus said. "What the school board saves is really a downloaded cost for many parents."

Spring break not the first thing to restore

Despite that, Bacchus said she doesn't think the shorter holiday will be restored anytime soon.

In the past, when the school board had looked at cutting spring break in half, opinions were split down the middle.

"We were talking about going back to the one-week break [in 2013] and we had a real backlash," she said. "I started getting some really angry phone calls from people, both parents and employees."

Even now, with more funding from the province, the money will first go to fixed costs like restored contract compliance and other pre-Liberal changes, Bacchus explained.

"There are lots and lots of things to restore that existed before 2002 that have been taken away, and I'm not sure if spring break would be one of them," she said.

Patti Bacchus,former trustee and chair with the Vancouver School Board, gives a run-down of how a two week spring break came to be. 8:19

With files from The Early Edition.

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