School Divisions Review Operations
Since Alberta’s Minister of Education announced funding adjustments on March 28, school divisions have been reviewing their current operations due to a 14 percent decrease in funding.
“While funding for teachers and most other aspects of the K-12 system is being maintained, funding for transportation and some services not being utilized in an at-home learning environment, such as substitute teachers and educational assistants, is being temporarily reduced while in-person classes remain canceled. Any savings from these adjustments will be re-allocated to support Alberta’s COVID-19 response,” stated Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.
LaGrange went onto say, “COVID-19 has changed both how we provide student learning, and the operational needs of the education system. I want to stress that this is a temporary arrangement as schools focus on at-home learning. I have full confidence the system will continue to be equipped to successfully deliver our education continuity plan.”
Glen Brodziak, Superintendent of the St. Paul School Division said, “We have to try and find efficiencies everywhere. We’re in a tough place and everyone has to do their part.”
Brodziak said they are currently consulting with Alberta Education and will be reviewing operations for the entire organization, with the exception of teachers. ”We will have to decide what we need to deliver quality education.” He expects the process to take at least a couple of weeks to complete.
Online learning materials were in-place before Spring break, and the school division will provide personal supports while students are learning at home. Brodziak said they are keeping a log book and all of the family school laison workers have already reached out to parents. Brodziak said they are also exploring the idea of utilizing funds that were previously allocated to the nutrition pilot program to purchase gift certificates at local grocery stores for families in need.
According to Diane Hutchinson, Communications Coordinator for the Battle River School Division, “At this time we know that the Transportation budget has been reduced by 51% for the remainder of this school year. That resulted in temporary lay off notices being given to 78 bus drivers. We very much want to emphasize that these are temporary, and we still consider each of these people to be part of our BRSD team. We look forward to the day they are able to be back behind the wheel. There is a further reduction being made in funding for other areas. Right now we’re evaluating any and every way that we can reduce spending in order to retain as many staff as possible.”
On March 31, Elk Island Catholic Schools (EICS), issued a press release stating, “As a school community, we were surprised by the Government of Alberta announcement on reductions to education funding and have been working behind the scenes to assess the impact and next steps. We are extremely concerned about our staff within Elk Island Catholic Schools (EICS) that will be impacted, and our prayers are with them.
EICS Central Leadership has been working together on how we will try to navigate this change in approach and is awaiting specific details from the Ministry of Education.
Laura McNabb, Communications Director for Elk Island Public Schools, said the school division’s leadership team is currently working through materials provided by Alberta Education.