COVID-19 could mean longer spring break for Vancouver students: NPA school trustee Fraser Ballantyne

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      Vancouver education trustee Fraser Ballantyne says the school board should be “nimble” in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Ballantyne suggested that the board could consider options such as extending the spring break for students.

      This measure could minimize the spread of COVID-19, the official name of the novel coronavirus that originated from China in December 2019.

      “If the pandemic intensifies, then we’re going to have to be fairly nimble and react accordingly,” Ballantyne told the Georgia Straight by phone Friday (March 13).

      March 13 is the last day of classes for kindergarten to high school students in the district before a two-week spring break.

      The break is scheduled to run from March 16 to March 27.

      Students are supposed to return to school on March 30.

      Ballantyne is not suggesting at this time to prolong the spring break.

      Ballantyne noted that the board will have to wait for advice from provincial health authorities.

      “I understand that it's just starting to get going,” Ballantyne said about COVID-19’s continuing increase locally and across the country.

      According to Ballantyne, the next two weeks of the spring break could lead to a “whole different situation”.

      “We certainly have got our kids at the forefront of all the decisions that we make,” Ballantyne said.

      Such decision could potentially include extending the spring break.

      "Absolutely," Ballantyne said.

      Ballantyne pointed out that such a decision "depends" on what the situation will look in the coming days.

      As part of a statement Thursday (March 12) about the COVID-19 situation, the B.C. provincial government stated that it will “work school districts to develop procedures to be implemented with students and staff when classes resume”.

      The Vancouver school district has 110 schools, around 50,000 students, and about 9,000 staff members.

      Boards of education in B.C. are authorized under the School Act to set calendars in their respective school districts.

      Ballantyne, a school trustee since 2011, has extensive experience in the district.

      Ballantyne, who belongs to the Non-Partisan Association trustee, was a teacher, school administrator, and part of the district’s management team.

      The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus as a global pandemicon March 11.