Published Online: April 27, 2010

Vancouver Shortens School Year to Help With Budget Shortfall

Students at Vancouver schools will see their school-year shortened by 10 days to deal with an $18.1-million budget shortfall.

The Vancouver School Board voted last night to adopt a school calendar for 2010-11 that will cancel early dismissal days and extend the instructional day to allow schools to close for 10 additional days.

Vancouver board chairwoman Patti Bacchus says the decision was taken reluctantly but trustee Ken Denike, the only board member to vote against the motion, says other options to save money should be pursued.

The new school calendar will establish a consistent school start time that the board says add predictable schedules for families moving from school to school.

The plan also eliminates the use of early-dismissal days, giving schools additional teaching time and help parents who now won't have to arrange for additional daycare.

It also provides four four-day weekends throughout the school year that the board says will introduce a "wellness factor" and increase student and staff productivity.

The spring break will also be extended to two weeks, which the board says will also provide a much-needed rest period at a period of high stress.

"Trustees were reluctant to support this proposal," said Bacchus.

"But given that we are already facing deep budget cuts across the board that will affect everything from special needs students, ESL students, inner-city students, and elimination of music programs, trustees supported an option they felt would less of a negative impact on the education of our students."

The measures, which will be reviewed after one year, are expected to save the Vancouver school district at least $1.2 million annually.

But Denike says other means of reducing the shortfall should be investigated, such as a B.C. government miscalculation on how it funds improved teacher qualifications that he says would give the board another $4.9 million.

"We found another amount of funds to reduce the $18.2 million," he said.

"There are some other options available. I don't think they're being looked at and I'm going to make that point on the budget decision Thursday night."

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