The West Vancouver School District has decided to move its two-week spring break to coincide with the 2010 Olympic Games.
“When we started to look at the Olympics we realized that we could conceivably move our spring break from March, when it traditionally is, to February during the Olympics,” said school board chair Jane Kellett.
“We thought, we are like Whistler in that we are a venue location… and we have a lot of parents, students and teachers who really want to take part in the Olympics, so we realized that it would make sense to move our spring break to allow us to close the schools during the Olympics.”
West Vancouver has taken a two-week spring break for the last six years. This made it easier, said Kellett, to make the decision to close during the Games as parents, staff and administrators were used to that length of a break.
The district has decided to take a longer break at the Easter weekend to give students and staff a rest between February and June, when school lets out for the summer.
The extra days taken at Easter will be made up as full days at the beginning of September 2009. Rather than waiting until Sept. 8, 2009 to begin that school year West Vancouver students will head back to school Sept. 1.
The decision was made by the West Vancouver School Board at its June 12 meeting after discussions with its calendar committee, which represents all the educational stakeholders, including parents.
Behind the decision were several considerations said Kellett.
“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and people wanted to make sure their children and themselves had the opportunity to participate,” she said.
She pointed to the celebrations and festivities that West Vancouver is planning in conjunction with the Games as well as the Olympic events in the district — the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events at Cypress Mountain — as chances to participate.
Parents also mentioned that they might be interested in leaving town, perhaps even renting out their homes during the Games. Both of these could impact school attendance.
“There was concern that if the schools were to stay open, because in West Van a lot of the parents do have the means to either leave or participate in the Olympics, that students wouldn’t be in session anyway,” said Kellett.
The school board made the decision early because it wanted to make sure that everyone had a chance to put plans in place for the Games.
It was also unclear how the Olympics would impact traffic flow in the area and what opportunities would be available.
“I think everyone is starting to get really excited about the Olympics… and we wanted to make sure that people realized that they could really participate and take advantage of this event that really is not going to come again,” said Kellett.
Calendar committee parent representative Lori Gritten believes the current 2010 calendar is the best option for West Vancouver.
“I don’t necessarily think what works for us would work for other districts,” she said. “But it works for us.”
It was also the one overwhelmingly chosen by parents in a spring survey done by the district.
“The most important thing was the kids and their education, that was the bottom line,” said Gritten who has two kids in high school and two in elementary school.
“We talked about whether it would be two weeks of wasted sessions with one day this child is there and on another someone else is missing. So we considered the overall disruptions too.
“There always have been a few objectors to the two-week spring break itself so we did have some objections to this as well… but (the survey result) was overwhelmingly in favour of closing.”
Currently the Howe Sound district is proposing:
• Spring break for Whistler Secondary will be moved from March 8-12, 2010 to February 22-26, 2010 and the school will also be closed for an additional two weeks prior to the moved spring break and two days following the moved spring break, resulting in a total closure from Feb. 8 to March 2, 2010.
• Spring break for Whistler area elementary schools will be moved to Feb. 22-26, 2010.
• Spring break for all Squamish and Pemberton schools will be moved from March 8-12, 2010 to February 22-26, 2010.
• Pemberton, Don Ross and Howe Sound Secondary schools will be closed for an additional week prior to the moved spring break.