May 14, 2014 - 4:36 PM
SALMON ARM - The North Okanagan school district is looking at closing schools and reducing the number of trustees on its board to settle ongoing financial challenges in the operating budget.
Those ideas surfaced at a board meeting Tuesday as trustees passed a preliminary budget for the 2014/15 school year that would involve laying off teachers and support staff and cutting programs to make up for a $1.8 million shortfall.
“Our district, like many other districts, are to the point where... we used to have a glove we could take off, now we’re at the point where it’s what finger can we cut off to meet our budget?” trustee Debbie Evans said.
In addition to the cuts in the 2014/15 budget report, the board will also undertake a comprehensive review of the district’s facilities, including looking at possible school closures.
Board chair Bobbi Johnson said budget reductions stemming from shrinking enrollment only accounts for roughly a third of the amount of money needed to be chopped from the budget.
“We, like many families, are also feeling the pinch of rising costs, such as heating, hydro and gas, as well as in areas such as health and pension costs," Johnson said.
The board plans to axe the equivalent of four full-time secondary teachers, one learning resource teacher and two education assistants, among other cuts to positions. Crossing guards, maintenance staff, music program staff and language pathologists will also feel the squeeze.
"There's very little else to cut which doesn't have a huge affect on students,” trustee Bob Fowler said.
The option of making cuts at the board level was also floated at the meeting. Reducing board trustees to seven from nine would save approximately $25,000 and the move is something that will be reviewed. It’s something Evans says would need to be done before the upcoming municipal election.
The board plans to write the Ministry of Education and Premier Christy Clark detailing their concerns around the cuts.
"Education is a people business so every decision we make affects our students and employees and we take this responsibility to heart," Johnson said.
Last year, the school district cut 12 full time teaching positions.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014