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Saanich school board to move recess to end of day starting April 2

Jan 26 2012

The Saanich school board has decided to move recess to the end of the day at elementary schools, starting April 2.

In the face of stiff opposition from parents, the board reluctantly agreed to the proposal to deal with problems caused by the ongoing dispute between the B.C. government and teachers.

The board decided to delay the move for two months to give district managers to work out the logistics and safety issues around ending classes 15 minutes early. Students would be supervised until regular dismissal time.

The move is expected to ease the strain on managers and other senior staff who have taken over the job of supervising playgrounds in September, when teachers began withholding duties in order to press their contract demands.

Superintendent Keven Elder said in a report to the board that, after nearly five months of job action, the extra workload on senior staff is undermining the district's ability to manage day-to-day operation. Elder says the district's management team is struggling to stay on top of staffing, payroll, transportation, planning, and health and safety issues.

In addition, trustees decided in December to ease the load on managers by deploying school psychologists, speech therapists and First Nations education assistants to help with playground supervision. But the move means vulnerable students are now losing up to eight a hours of help a week, Elder said.

The idea of cancelling or shifting recess met with stiff opposition from parents when it was first broached in December. A report to the board said 101 of 104 parent responses disagreed with the move.

"For the physical and mental well-being for the children, we think it's essential the they be afforded the opportunity to have a break from their work," Nancy Borden, vice-president of the Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils of Saanich, said recently.

In a briefing note last month, Elder said he agrees with the sentiment of protecting students from the dispute. But he noted that the district faces a "real risk to our ability to run the district in service to those very children and families."

lkines@timescolonist.com

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