Items in the Hall family garage collecting winter dust for far too long.

Give Kootenay parents and kids a break

I fully understand there are more pressing issues currently absorbing our leaders’ time in Nelson, but....

I fully understand there are more pressing issues currently absorbing our leaders’ time, but once the teachers’ union and province make a fragile peace I have a task for the Kootenay Lake school district. Spring break needs to be moved to a time when there is actual spring.

As parents get set to wave goodbye to spring break 2012, it’s difficult to remember a two-week break with more miserable weather. Unless you’re a skier — and I know there are plenty of you out there — the last two weeks have sucked. Mid-March is not a time to scrape two inches of ice off your windshield or shovel two feet off your driveway. Mother Nature is being just plain mean at this point.

I’m not blaming our school board for the weather. If they had the sort of power to control the forces of nature, they would surely be able to fix labour disputes too. They are mortal and thus only able to execute actions expected by humans.

So with those human powers I’m suggesting that spring break be moved. As a compromise for skiers who want to capture the typical late season bounty of powder, I propose the two-week break start in the last week of March.

At this point those without kids in the school system are probably wondering why I’m so worked up about this. Spring weather in the Kootenays is generally unpredictable… live with it. Easier said than done when you have an 11 and 14 year old.

For starters, a two week break is ridiculous. When I was a kid — yes in the days when we walked to school uphill both ways through daily snowstorms — spring break was a week. Long enough to get a break, but short enough to remember what school was all about.

The two week break started a few years back as school boards grappled with ways to cut costs. The provincial penny pinching eventually led to five more days away from the classroom. A 14-day absence from learning is huge for kids. When you consider that it takes a week for most of them get back into the flow, you might as well write off the entire month of March.

A battle to reduce spring break to a reasonable one-week layoff is futile  at this point. It seems pretty obvious the province is not going to significantly bolster education spending anytime soon, so parents will just have to deal with the two weeks.

So how to make the best of it?

Some families travel to help fill the days and provide new experiences for their kids. That’s fantastic… for those who can afford it. Unfortunately those people are in the minority. Most families struggle to stay above water, so trips to warmer and more exotic places are not an option.

Most parents are stuck spending spring break closer to home. And by that I mean in their own neighbourhoods. When that’s the case, weather becomes a huge factor in options and opportunities for the kids.

A reprieve from the classroom at spring is good idea. Breaking away from the routine for a few days to frolic in the outdoors is healthy for children. But when winter won’t relent, the list of activities shrinks.

I’m sure the local ski crowd will mark the last two weeks as the best spring break ever. I’m happy for them. But like the majority of families, my kids are not really into skiing. At some point maybe, but hockey and soccer eat up most of their winter sports time.

So what do the rest of us do when the weather outside is frightful? There’s board games and crafts. Movie marathons and video games in moderation are acceptable. The swimming pool is not a bad option for one or two days. Soccer Quest camps eat up a few hours of each day. But after a gruelling two weeks… most of indoor activities begin to sour.

During spring break kids need to be outdoors. They should be playing catch, booting the soccer ball, going on hikes, skateboarding and playing kick-the-can. Scheduling a two-week break during a time most often plagued with dicey weather seems silly.

It’s up to the school board — they have the power to make the adjustment. On behalf of all parents tired of the winter-refuses-to-go-away-break, I ask for a change.

Spring break shouldn’t be a time of misery, it should be a proper break from the old routine. One of the ways to make it happen is a shift in when it happens.


Bob Hall is editor of the Nelson Star. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @bobbyhall10



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