Local students won't be getting an extra week off for spring break next year after all.
The Chilliwack school board had been pushing for a two-week break but had to settle for a regular one-week break Tuesday after being told calendar negotiations between the district and the Chilliwack Teachers' Association (CTA) had run out of time.
The board had hoped to get an extended break in place to connect the spring vacation and Easter holidays because they are only four days apart on next year's school calendar.
"Speaking as a former administrator, I'm sure that schools will experience a very, very high degree of absenteeism during the four days," said trustee Walt Krahn Tuesday. "I'm very disappointed that we did not have a compromise."
A deal between the district and the CTA were needed because the plan for the extended break would have required changes to teachers' local collective agreement.
Since the board didn't want the district to make up for the extra vacation days by adding a few minutes to every school day (as it did for last year's two-week break), it planned to move some of the teachers' professional development days into the summer.
In the teachers' contract, however, the teaching year official runs from the Tuesday after Labour Day to the last Friday in June-dates also referred to as the "bookends" of the school calendar.
And local teachers don't want those bookends to budge, according to CTA president Katharin Midzain.
"We were told that the board would only consider one thing and that is to change the bookends," she told the Times, "and we won't do that. It creates many problems and certainly precedent."
She called the plan to move ProD days into the summer "lousy professional development philosophy" because it doesn't give teachers a chance to put their learning into practice right away like they can when the days are spread throughout the school year.
"You want to be able to apply it to something and apply it immediately," she said.
From a union perspective, Midzain said the CTA is also reluctant to make changes to the collective agreement "at a time when it's convenient for the school district" especially given a recent dispute between the district and local teachers over report cards.
"We aren't saying no just because of that," Midzain said, "but of course we're cautious. We're not going to give away anything."
The provincial deadline for approving the local school calendar is May 31, and Tuesday was the last regular public board meeting an alternate calendar could have been approved.
Next year's spring break is now scheduled from March 18-22. The new calendar also has B.C.'s new statutory holiday, Family Day, penciled in for Feb. 18 although that date has yet to be officially designated.