It’s been a very unusual month for schools and school divisions and BRSD is no exception. The Board of Trustees held their first-ever online meeting April 30.
BRSD had initially projected the School Division would have to reduce spending by about $4 million dollars for next year because the reserves the Division has been using to offset deficits in Instructional funding are depleted.
Now that we have details of the new funding models, we know we are facing more changes. Funding for Inclusive Education, which enables us to provide everything from classroom support in the form of EAs to assistive technology and adaptive resources for specific students, has been reduced by $2.5 million, from $7.3 million to $4.8 million. Plus, there are services beyond the Inclusive Education program that used to be covered and are not included in the new Specialized Learning Supports grant.
There are also changes to the PUF program (which enables us to provide early intervention services to children). Service levels have changed and our funding has been reduced by over $1.7 million from $2.4 million to about $795,000.
Additionally, funds we used to receive to support Speech Language Services for Complex Communication, OT and PT, hearing and sight services and a portion of the FSLW program have also been eliminated. There is no way the PUF or Inclusive Education service we provide to students next year can look like it used to.
The Transportation and Facilities budgets have increased slightly for next year, and should allow us to offset some increases in costs.
Based on these realities, and many other factors, decisions about spending for next year will be discussed by the Board on May 14. A final budget is due May 31.
Due to the cancellation of classes in mid-March and a reduction in funding from the province for the remainder of this school year, BRSD, like many other school divisions, has made temporary layoffs. A total of 132 employees, including 79 bus drivers, bus monitors and courier drivers, 23 Learning Commons Facilitators and 30 Educational Assistants have been temporarily laid off.
A number of planned activities and events have been cancelled for this year, due to the uncertainties caused by the current situation. These include Reading University and Summer School programs, as well as the Friends of Battle River awards.
Many high schools are planning special events to mark what would have been graduation ceremony day for their Grade 12 students , while also hoping to offer some kind of more formal event in the fall.
School project updates
Restoration of Central High Sedgewick Public School, to repair damage caused by a roofing fire last August, is nearing completion. Junior and senior high classes have been taking place in trailers located on the school grounds since school began in September. The east half of the school has been occupied by elementary students and staff since November, while the west portion of the building, and the large gym, have continued to be a construction zone. Some flooring work remains, along with installation of fire-rated doors and windows in one area but, according to Assistant Superintendent Imogene Walsh, the restoration is looking good! With classes cancelled, all of the classroom trailers have now been removed.
After more than two years of planning and design work, the next step in the project to replace Chester Ronning School is finding a builder. The construction tendering process is expected to be underway before the end of May. The 50-year-old school, located in Camrose, was designated for replacement due to mechanical and structural issues.
Bus routes and calendar determined for Ryley School
In March, the Board of Trustees voted to consolidate Holden School and Ryley School into one school site, located in Ryley, and serving students in K to 9, with high school students reallocated to either Tofield or Viking schools. In April, the Board voted that all schools in Battle River will follow the same five-day-week calendar, including Ryley School, effective September 1, 2020. Ryley currently operates on a four-day-week calendar. In addition, the Board determined attendance areas for high school students in that area, based on their geographic location in relation to Tofield and Viking schools.
Ag Program discussions with Round Hill
In March the Board of Trustees defeated a motion to close Round Hill School. During the school closure discussion process, a proposal was received to offer an Agriculture Program at the school. At their April meeting, Board members struck a committee to meet with reps of this proposed program to determine the learning elements that could be provided and whether the program would be viable.
- information from the April 30, 2020 meeting of the BRSD Board of Trustees