With little detail available, the BRSD has indicated that all schools will see reductions in staff as a result of the drop in overall funding for the next school year. File photo

School staffing cuts coming to BRSD

With no reserves left, division faced many challenges for next year

Bashaw School will be impacted by budget reductions that the Battle River School Division (BRSD) is dealing with.

Trustees approved the budget for 2020-2021 during an online meeting on May 14, following further funding details that were recently released by Alberta Education.

In a release from BRSD, it explained that trustees had some very difficult decisions as the division faced a $6 million shortfall.

“As a school division located in an area of declining population and school enrollment, but still facing increasing costs, BRSD has struggled with balancing its budget in recent years,” the release said.

“The budget reflects many difficult decisions about how to reduce spending, in light of the school division’s current financial realities.”

Bridge funding for some services has offset about $4 million of the financial shortfall, which lessened the reductions.

According to board chair Norm Erickson, these changes are difficult and were not made easily.

“We know change is necessary, but it’s a lot. We’ve been talking about this reality for quite a while and trying to find solutions that would reduce the impact on students in classrooms as much as possible,” he said in the release.

“We’re grateful for funding flexibility that allows us to make decisions we think work best for us. We’re grateful for the bridge funding that allows us to protect services to students in classrooms, and to slow down the pace of change. But we also know that bridge funding is temporary. We will experience another $4 million in reductions by the 2022-2023 school year. That means we’ve still got many difficult decisions ahead.”

Every school and department will see staffing reductions as the division exhausted its reserves to balance this year’s budget.

In addition, spending in areas such as equipment, conferences and resources will be reduced, with further cost savings coming from the closure of two schools and the consolidation of students for Holden and Ryley as well as combining the Camrose Outreach School with the Battle River Online School.

The division will also introduce a technology fee for all students.

However, new funding models for inclusive education (which includes supports such as educational assistants and adaptive technology) mean a loss of $2.5 million plus the loss of coverage for services that were provided beyond the program.

As well, per unit funding (PUF) used for early childhood intervention services has been slashed by almost $800K along with a cut to service levels. That will translate to fewer students getting assistance and the elimination of items like speech language and physical therapy for these students.

COVID-19 changes

With schools closed since March 16 and the province indicating they would remain that way for the rest of the school year, school divisions saw its overall funding cut for the rest of the current school year.

That has led to 132 temporary layoffs handed out to BRSD bus drivers, bus monitors, courier drivers, learning commons facilitators and educational assistants.

The situation also saw numerous activities and events cancelled across the division, including graduation ceremonies and programs such as summer school, Reading University and the Friends of Battle River awards.

Due to the present uncertainty and doubts about what the next school year will look like, the BRSD and schools are hoping that some sort of formal graduation event can be held in the fall.

Bashaw School

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