The Battle River School Division Board of Trustees shared at the May 28 Board meeting that they had received some good news from the provincial government, in the form of stimulus funding for seven different school capital maintenance and renewal projects.
Those seven projects were announced as part of the provincial stimulus package that is intended to enable school divisions to complete additional capital projects and help provide employment.
Funding totals $2.6 million and is targeted to specific projects that must be completed within six months.
The projects include funds allocated for repair of the roof at Daysland School; removal of portable classrooms in New Norway that have reached their life expectancy; replacement of some corridor flooring at schools in Killam, Sedgewick and Daysland; as well as upgrading of washrooms at Ecole Camrose Composite High School. Also included in the project approval were funds to demolish former school buildings in the communities of Lougheed and Strome, which Battle River has been seeking for many years.
Since the time of the Board meeting, BRSD has also learned of additional funding that is being provided to two schools for playground projects. This is part of the government’s initiative to ensure that funds provided for constructing new schools also include funding for playgrounds. Some of the funding BRSD is receiving under this initiative is allocated to support playground costs at Bashaw School, which was completed in 2017, and there is also playground funding allocated to the replacement Chester Ronning School, which will soon be under construction.
Final Day of School changed for this year
Due to the unexpected cancellation of in-school classes earlier this spring and the resulting changes to exam schedules, all students in Battle River will finish school on Friday, June 19. School-based staff will finish one week later, on Friday, June 26. In the original school calendar, staff’s last day was Monday, June 29 but Superintendent Rita Marler asked for the change to be made in recognition of the extraordinary efforts that school staff have been making during this time.
Transportation Fees approved for next school year
The Board of Trustees approved several Transportation Fees at their May 28 meeting, agreeing to leave the Cross Boundary Fee and the Field Trip fee the same as current year rates. In acknowledgment of these difficult times, it was recognized that families may not have additional funds available to cover increased costs of this kind, nor will school budgets have the flexibility to support this.
Spending is lower than expected for current year
The Board of Trustees heard that, due to the unusual circumstances of the last two months, spending is down for most BRSD departments, particularly in the Transportation and Instruction areas. The flip-side of this, of course, has been the reduction in government funding and the lay-off of bus drivers and a number of school support staff members.
The Board heard that the Finance Department continues to work with schools to facilitate the refund of various school fees to parents prior to the end of June. Some refunds have already been processed.
Updating the Three-year-Plan
Assistant Superintendent Shan Jorgenson-Adam reported to the Board that BRSD is doing well in meeting its goals and priorities for learning, but is making some adjustments to the plans for next year.
There will be even greater emphasis on relationships and supporting students, as well as increased focus on diagnostic assessments to help determine where students are at in both their learning and their wellness journey.
Staffing plans in process for next year
This is always a busy time of year for Human Resources, as evaluation of staff wraps up, retirement and resignation letters are received and plans for next year are finalized.
Due to the funding and programming changes for PUF and Inclusive Education announced by Alberta Education earlier this spring, BRSD will likely have 70 fewer Educational Assistants and other school support staff members next year.
Going back to school in September
There continue to be many unknowns about what ‘back to school’ will mean for the fall of 2020. Alberta Education has been preparing three different scenarios for how classes might be offered, depending on the status of the pandemic at that time.
There is significant input being gathered on everything from safe school bus transportation to the need for personal protective equipment.
Alberta Education is expected to announce their decision about how schooling will be offered in September by the beginning of August, so schools have time to prepare.