A greater number of retirements than usual and a departure of some teachers to other districts have allowed the Prince Rupert School District (SD52) to prevent significant layoffs entering the 2016-17 school year.
Faced with a $1.9 million budget shortfall heading into the summer, the district’s large number of instructor retirements made for an easier time of finding savings, said SD52 secretary treasurer Cam McIntyre last week.
“We were making a lot of changes within our budget, so [teachers] were moving around and filling those empty spots, but we didn’t have any real layoffs at the end of the day because of the number of retirements and [movement] that we had,” he said.
“It kind of made it helpful for everyone.”
The district isn’t expecting a significant influx of students, like they were preparing for earlier in the year should one or more proposed LNG projects have gone through by now, but at the same time school officials aren’t counting the kids before they’re in their seats.
Official numbers of enrollment in September don’t have to be submitted to the Ministry of Education until Sept. 30, but every year there’s movement of kids between schools in the same district, or even to other districts early in the year with no notification.
“It even takes a little bit of reconciling the week after [Sept. 30] because it takes some time for another district to say ‘Hey, can you transfer this kid to me’ (for someone who has moved away) or to release a kid that has to come into our numbers if somebody’s moved here,” said McIntyre.
Typically, SD52 receives approximately 150 kindergarten students entering the system every year, but a two-year anomaly of 130 students years ago have made the number of classes for Grades 6 and 7 reduce this year (the age they are now).
In terms of class sizes, officials aren’t anticipating a drastic change from what they’ve been working with in the district.
“In the middle school and high school we traditionally have class sizes that are below provincial average and we expect that will still be the case. Elementary – I think we’re probably closer to the average just in terms of the way you staff with the elementary schools in place,” said McIntyre.
For Port Edward Community School, the district expects anywhere between 11 and 14 students to attend this year, but will not know for certain until the school year is a few weeks old. It is staffed to be a one-room school with one teacher.
“They’ve got some really neat plans in place to take advantage of that small size and the ability to have older kids mentoring younger kids as well … We think it will actually enhance the learning for all the kids. When they figure out how to explain something to a younger kid, they understand it better themselves,” said McIntyre.
School board trustees will meet in the coming weeks to evaluate bussing options for eliminated service and may look for ways for restoration of service with new funding options available to them.
Registration for new elementary students to the district (or students who have switched schools) is available at elementary school offices from Aug. 29 through Sept. 2 from 9 a.m. until noon, and new students to Charles Hays Secondary School, Prince Rupert Middle School and Pacific Coast School can register this coming week from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2.