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Saanich schools move to two-week spring break

May 04 2012
Saanich school board chairman Wayne Hunter said the board is planning for "surprise" cost pressures in the fall. 

Saanich school board chairman Wayne Hunter said the board is planning for "surprise" cost pressures in the fall.

Photograph by: Handout , timescolonist.com (May 2012)

Saanich students and teachers will get a two-week spring break next March as part of a balanced budget package approved by school trustees.

The board approved the extended holiday in a tight vote at a special budget meeting Wednesday night.

Spring break next year will run March 11 to March 22. School days will be extended by eight minutes to make up for the lost week.

The move aligns the district with Greater Victoria and other jurisdictions around the province. The Sooke school district has decided to stay with a one-week break next spring.

Saanich expects the expanded holiday to save $150,000 and help the district balance its $69-million operating budget for 2012-13.

The district has been forced to look for savings and find new ways to boost revenue in the face of government funding that fails to cover rising costs. In addition, the district's government grant is expected to drop by nearly $1 million next year as the student population is projected to dip by 250 students.

Besides moving to a longer spring break, the district plans to increase revenue by recruiting more paying international students. It also will cut 11 teaching jobs due to falling enrolment and the government's move to eliminate district classsize averages.

Meanwhile, the board defeated a motion to use some of its $500,000 contingency fund to restore elementary counselling and library services that have been reduced over the years.

Board chairman Wayne Hunter said there was widespread support for tackling the problem. But the board majority also felt it was important to wait and see whether there were further cost pressures in the fall.

"We just thought that we need to plan for some surprises, and in September, we'll know exactly how many youngsters are in front of us," he said.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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