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Most B.C. kids love having a 2-week spring break, but parents say they’re struggling

Click to play video: 'Spring break child care headaches'
Spring break child care headaches
WATCH: Many parents are struggling to find child care during a two-week spring break. As Tanya Beja reports, some school boards are asking the province to reconsider the length of what used to be a week-long vacation – Mar 20, 2018

A two-week spring break is hard to argue with when you’re a kid. With twice the number of free days and few worries, it seems like a dream come true.

But their parents are telling a different story, as the extra time means either missing an extra week of work, or shelling out double the amount on child care costs.

“I think it’s really good for [our son], but it’s a little harder for us,” one father said. “I’m on a break from work right now but if I had a full workload we’d have to put him in daycares, which would be tricky.”
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One mother of two told Global News it costs her family $200 a week, per child, to enroll them in camps during the break, which sometimes happens if she’s unable to get the time off from work.

“It’s not bad as long as my co-workers and I can work it out, because we can’t all be off at the same time,” she said. “I think two weeks is a bit long, especially if we have to go to camps.”

The two-week break has become the norm in most of B.C.’s larger school districts, including Vancouver, which made the switch in 2010 to cover its own financial restrictions.

WATCH BELOW: B.C. tops the list when it comes spring break spending, but experts are worried about how families can afford it

Click to play video: 'Spring Break spending can add up'
Spring Break spending can add up

Former Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus said the district was able to save roughly $100,000 a day that would have gone to hiring substitutes during the second week.

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“In a budget that is almost half a billion dollars a year, there’s a savings of around $500,000 savings from having that extra spring break week,” she said.

“It’s not a lot of money, but it’s something. And in a budget where you’re scraping around trying to find savings, it means five, six, seven fewer layoffs of teacher psychologists, or keeping 10 support workers, so it does make a difference.”

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But business advocates say asking store owners to distribute more time off to a small stable of employees is a burden on both sides of the employer-employee divide.

“As it stands now it’s very difficult for smaller employers to find ways to manage those full two weeks and ensure they have enough people to make their operations go and be successful,” Richard Truscott with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said.

Truscott said he hopes some flexibility could be added to make things easier for employers, even suggesting the idea of school divisions staggering the breaks — anything that could bring relief to smaller businesses.

“It may be easier for a big employer with 100 people or 500 people to make sure they’ve got enough people in place to cover things” for a two-week break, he said.

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“But for a smaller employer, a three-person shop or an eight-person shop, that’s very difficult to accommodate.”

Bacchus said there was extensive consultation behind Vancouver’s decision, which found that absenteeism among both students and staff dropped with longer breaks.

WATCH BELOW: Spring Break 2018 ideas for families in Metro Vancouver

Click to play video: 'Spring Break 2018 ideas for families in Metro Vancouver'
Spring Break 2018 ideas for families in Metro Vancouver

But she admits that the costs saved by the board have likely been passed on to the parents through child care expenses, and that not all kids will be so lucky to get the attention of their parents or early childhood educators during the extended time, potentially leading to further disadvantages.

“The kids who have families who can spend time with them and take them to cultural events or go travelling can actually benefit, even academically, from the breaks,” Bacchus said.

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“But kids who are left on their own, perhaps just playing video games, are certainly going to fall behind.”

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When asked about the potential for shortening the spring break back to one week, B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming said the decision is up to the individual school districts, but added that he’s willing to listen to concerns.

“If there is a view that is united, and that is calling on the province to co-ordinate with school districts, we’ll take it from there, but I’ve received no such proposal to date,” he said.

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