Citing a variety of financial pressures ranging from rising inflation to falling enrollment, School District #43 discussed the plan to cut 24 teaching positions during Tuesday’s school board budget session.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re dealing with this budget,” commented Trustee Barb Hobson. “It’s not normal for us to be looking at ways to cut services . . . I don’t think we are cutting services I think that we’ve maintained and actually enhanced the services.”
In addition to losing two dozen teachers, the budget also cuts 12 support staff. That includes 10 temporary caretakers funded by a one-time provincial funding grant as well as two positions that covered absences.
On the other side of the ledger, the 2022/23 budget calls for seven new educational assistants to help with increasing vulnerable learner needs.
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There is no change projected for school administrators.
International education program may take years to rebuild
The reductions are “unavoidable” according to the district’s budget and fiscal plan, which attributed the layoffs to the impact of the pandemic on international education revenues as well as the: “continued underfunding of operating grants from the Ministry of Education.”
Prior to the pandemic, the district’s International education program funded 62 staff positions. The program is expected to fund 51 staff members next school year and will likely take a few years to rebuild, according to the school district budget.
Besides inflation and supply chain challenges, the budget was also exacerbated by the challenges of dealing with the possibility of more students being homeschooled or enrolling in online learning, as well as paying for the district’s $25 million contribution to Burke Mountain Middle/Secondary School.
Teachers could be hired back
However, if those factors shift, the district could put more teachers back in classrooms, according to school board chair Michael Thomas.
“It is much easier to add staffing in as the year goes on,” he said. “Mid-year reductions are tremendously disruptive to the whole education system and to the students.”
End of April
School district are required to submit a balanced budget by June 30. School District #43 customarily approves a preliminary budget by the end of April, in part to notify staff of any layoffs within 60 days of those layoffs becoming effective.
The school board’s next meeting is set for April 19.