School board members are anticipating some level of impact from the COVID-19 pandemic as they develop their proposed preliminary budget for the next school year.
As preparations begin for the 2021/2022 budget, the board will be examining the impact the pandemic may have had on student learning, and what supports they can put in place to address the needs of their learning communities.
The budget for this past school year was developed during the early days of the pandemic, said SD42 school board Chair Korleen Carreras. At that time, she said, there were many unknowns.
“Thankfully, we received additional funding from both the federal and provincial governments in September,” she said, including a total of $5,639,497 from the federal government and $1,084,402 from the provincial government.
“This supplementary funding helped us ensure a safe return to in-classroom instruction and also supported our implementation of provincial health and safety guidelines,” she said.
Some of the additional safety features include enhanced cleaning at schools; additional cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment; improved ventilation in buildings; increased support for learners with unique needs; support for remote learning and support for a school at Katzie First Nation.
The goal, said Carreras, was to support the return to in-classroom instruction by ensuring families had a number of different options. There was a gradual return to in-class learning, the district expanded their Odyssey program to accommodate more families, they switched to a quarter system at the secondary school level and created remote learning programs for students not ready to return to the classroom. The district also supported the Katzie community with an on-site school.
“The federal funds gave us the financial means to increase staffing to support these options,” explained Carreras.
“Because our families did have a broad number of options, very few ultimately chose to remove their children from our school district to home school and we therefore also saw little impact to our per-student funding from the Ministry of Education,” she said.
Many families that opted for a gradual return or a remote learning program in the early fall have now returned to full-time, in-classroom learning.
Although projections show an increase in enrollment for the next five years, the pandemic has had a negative impact on the international education program that has seen a significant reduction in revenue this year.
During the last budget process, the board decided to reduce international education staffing to reflect the decline in enrollment.
“And to mitigate the impact of this enrolment decline,” noted Carreras.
For now Carreras is looking forward to receiving input from education partners and the community at-large.
The proposed 2021/2022 preliminary budget will be presented to the school board April 14.
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