The good news for students arriving back at school after their Christmas break is their day will be 15 minutes shorter. The bad news is that comes at the cost of their daily recess break.
A letter signed by the district superintendent was sent home with students Tuesday informing parents that as of January 7, elementary school recess is cancelled and non-instructional time at secondary schools in the district is reduced by 15 minutes. That measure is being taken, says superintendent Dick Chambers, to address supervision safety issues and the strain on administrative staff caused as teachers’ job action forces non-union district staff to supervise students at recess and after school.
“For the past five weeks administrative staff have been driving between schools throughout the district to supervise students before school, at recess, at lunch, and after school. With the onset of winter conditions driving is dangerous for staff and there will inevitably be times when staff cannot be present for assigned supervision duties. That could potentially place students at risk,” says school board vice-chair Bev Christensen. “Sometimes non-exempt staff couldn’t make it to the school and the school didn’t know they weren’t coming and we didn’t know if they’d had an accident or gone in the ditch.”
In some cases, she adds, the required amount of supervision was hard to maintain, especially at more distant schools such as Nukko Lake Elementary, located 36 kilometres from the district offices. “By eliminating recess we’ve reduced the number of trips an exempt staff member has to make to a school by one.”
Those trips to cover before school, recess, lucnh and after school supervision were taking up three hours or more of an administrator’s time each day, says Ms. Christensen.
“They have a lot of work to do and it’s not getting done. Some of that work is reports required by government,” she says. The school’s budgeting process for the year begins after the break as well, which would require more administrative staff time.
Individual schools will have until next week to sort out the details of how they will adjust student timetables and bus schedules. For some schools that could mean moving lunch to an earlier time in the day. On December 19 principals at each school will send home letters notifying parents how their children will be affected by the loss of recess.
Individual schools, adds Ms. Christensen, will have the option of appealing to the district if they don’t want to adopt the no-recess regulation.
Meanwhile negotiations between teachers and employers have stopped while both argue their case for keeping extra-curricular activities or allowing them to be added to the teachers’ job action. An essential services ruling by the Labour Relations Board is expected tomorrow.
if talks earlier this week haven’t produced results. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has so far said they don’t have any plans yet to boycott extra-curricular activities, even if the LRB rules in their favour. A ruling on whether phase two of job action full or rotating strikes falls under essential services legislation isn’t expected from the LRB until well into the new year. Teachers and employers are at loggerheads over several issues including wages. Teachers are seeking a 22 per cent wage hike over three years, while the B.C. Public Schools Employers’ Association has said their $300 million bargaining budget allows for only a 7.5 per cent increase.