School District 52 continued on with the annual task of creating the next school year’s budget on Thursday, March 17, with the second budget consultation meeting that was held at Charles Hays Secondary School. The meeting gave attention to the fact that once again the district will see cuts in teacher and support staff.
The meeting consisted of a presentation to attendees, as well as an opportunity for stakeholders such as parents and members of the community, DPAC, IUOE and PRDTU unions, and Aboriginal Education council members to address trustees with their questions and concerns surrounding the $25.5 million dollar budget.
“What our purpose from this meeting was to gather and record questions and concerns of the public and then we will be able to provide answers to those questions and concerns to the Board at its next meeting,” explained School District 52’s Secretary Treasurer Cam McIntyre.
There was a lively discussion at the meeting that consisted of some opposition against certain expected cutbacks.
Since 1998 student numbers have been steadily declining. The amount of students in the district in the late 90’s was just over 3,500. By 2014, it is expected that student numbers will be just over 2,000. Due to this, the Board must find areas to cut back in.
A reduction in teacher and support staff is expected, which McIntyre says is related to the closure of Westview Elementary.
“We do believe there will be some implication for both teacher and support staff but we don’t have a precise number just yet as to what that might be.” Commented McIntyre.
This is concerning to many because regardless of student enrolment decreases, a report done a few years ago by Statistics Canada said that British Columbia has the worse student to educator ratio in the country. Many worry that fewer teachers and support staff in the district will mean more students being left behind, as well as it becoming more likely that students will not get everything they can out of their education experience.
“We need to focus on investing in smaller class sizes and restore support to our students with special needs,” said the Prince Rupert District Teachers’ Union President, Joanna Larson,
“Teachers and students should not suffer because the district is planning to staff four principals at Charles Hays next year,” Larson commented, mentioning other points such as the increase to staff on the board, and the fact that the board is going to continue to employ an outside consultant that costs as much as $800 per day.
When The Prince Rupert Northern View asked why four principals would be employed in September for CHSS, McIntyre explained that was that two of those employees will only be half time and that this is necessary because the high school will have a much larger number of students than before.
The Board is hoping that the budget will be approved at the next regular scheduled meeting, which will be held on April 12.