Recess will move to end of day in Saanich school district elementaries

Break times will change for elementary school students in SD63

Starting April 2, recess will be at 2:25 p.m. in elementary schools across the Saanich school district.

The board of education chose the date to give notice to parents and students, as well as the  B.C. Teachers’ Federation and B.C. Public School Employers’ Association. And a slight hope that talks are resolved before April 2.

“This situation, which is visited upon the district and the board, is not of its making and there is not going to be a panacea. … The district is a pawn between the two giants – the BCTF and the BCPSEA – in this dispute,” said trustee Tim Dunford. “We need to get a message to two big players that this is stymying our district.”

Board chair Wayne Hunter left the chair momentarily for the express purpose of stating his idea, that would eventually come out the winning option.

“We establish a date when we will implement the recess change,” Hunter said. “That date would be something like April 2, so that [if] we see no change in the way negotiations are going, we have served notice.”

In September, management staff took over morning, recess and after school supervision duties due to teacher job action. In December, superintendent Keven Elder outlined for the board how the extra duties on the 14 management staff were hindering other duties.

The board started using non-union staff for supervision duties, including speech and language pathologists, psychologists and First Nations assistants. Continuing that practice was one of the options the board faced, but it has been reducing psychologist time and First Nations assistant time each by two hours with kids, and by four hours from speech pathologist time to cover supervision duties, according to a memo from Elder.

“These are our most vulnerable kids and they’re missing out,” said trustee Jane Husband. “These kids are losing.”

The other in a “pair of poor choices” was Elder’s offer of moving recess to create only two times a day staff are needed to supervise, morning and after school.

Trustees considered moving recess effective Feb. 13 but felt there should be more time to address safety and logistical concerns expressed by parents over the past month.

“If we’re going to do it we need to make sure there’s time for those concerns to be addressed,” said Dunford.

Elder was confident teachers would deal with giving students exercise and nutrition breaks as they see fit, as they do during long classroom periods that aren’t broken up by a recess. However, he was concerned with the logistics and safety of students and asked for time to plan for a “safe and manageable handoff to parents” at the end of the school day at 2:40 p.m.

After the December discussion on moving recess, superintendent Keven Elder heard from more than 100 parents, primarily not in favour of moving the break.

The board stipulated it wouldn’t move recess if safety and logistics could not be addressed. They also stipulated that information going home be clearly worded so parents don’t feel pressured to pick up kids early.