The spring break saga in Prince Rupert has reached its end.
At the last Prince Rupert School District (SD52) board meeting, board trustees took advantage of the opportunity to re-evaluate different calendar options for the 2016-17 school year and in a reversal of opinion to pass a one-week spring break for students, the trustees passed a calendar with the two-week break.
The passing didn’t come without its controversy, however.
After a March meeting, in which trustee members voted in favour of a one-week spring break (Prince Rupert is one of three districts in the province to have a one-week break, with the remaining 57 others having two), and explained their rationale based on how it may affect different members of the community including First Nations, feedback ranging from dignified to disrespectful poured in to the district opposing the one-week option, even including accusations of racism toward the board.
“[Our original decision] caused a lot of turmoil in our community and that wasn’t our intent whatsoever,” said trustee Terri-Lynne Huddlestone.
“The hurtfulness of the community and their words toward us as a board doing our job and what we’re elected to do has been very difficult.”
Trustees originally voting for one week cited declining student achievement in the district as well as former teacher support for the option as reasons in favour of the shorter span. After overwhelming support for the two-week break from almost all stakeholders including parents, students, and through a district-distributed survey, the board approved the longer two weeks off in a 5-1 vote, with trustee Louisa Sanchez the lone member voting against. Additionally, district teachers voted in favour of a second week school closure in March this year.
“I believe in fulfilling my responsibility in determining what’s best for students. I don’t believe I should be considering family vacations or extra-curricular, my focus is for children in the schools. I realize this will make me unpopular, however I’m not here for popularity I’m here to advocate for our students,” adding that her extensive research from the ministry and other districts (Haida Gwaii has one week) has led her to her conclusion.
“[Many alleged our] survey was not a good reflection of the community – that it was dance parents getting organized and making submissions. I say ‘So what?’ If it was good for them, they have the opportunity to submit as everyone did … What we’ve done buys into [the theory that data collectors don’t use survey data and have their minds made up anyway]. We disregarded the data we collected and we fired it out the window … and that was wrong of us. If we are not going to seriously consider information gathered in a survey we have no business conducting it in the first place,” said board chair Tina Last, adding that teachers teaching in half-empty classrooms in the adjacent week to the March break end up teaching the same material over again.
“What exactly can we use to deny the overwhelming support of a two-week spring break? We’ve got none,” said Last.