KAMLOOPS — Funding the programs and staff for special needs students in School District 73 continues to be a challenge, especially with the decline in special needs students expected this year.
District Treasurer Kelvin Stretch says they are expecting to be down 15 special needs students across the district because of graduations or moving away. Funding is determined based on what level of special needs the student has according to assessments or medical testing.
“Additional special needs funding goes to look after those specific needs in each specific category,” Stretch says. “Each of those positions require significant assistance from certified educational assistants.”
Assistant Superintendent Karl deBruijn notes while they do receive adequate additional funding for special needs students, each student's needs are taken care of regardless of allocated funding.
“We have a support team in every school, and a district support team as well,” deBruin says. “Regardless of funding level we try to provide support to meet the needs. If one child needs more resources than funding permits we share it, we always spend more on special education than we bring in, just because we know the kids need it.”
DeBruijn adds the level of care each student requires varies greatly even within the same level of funding. He notes a shortfall comes in part because of how spread out the district is and also because of the varying degree of need. A single student at a rural school may need only partial care, but they still need to have staff at the school all day because of logistics.
“The initial reduction in learning assistants positions is not a huge amount, but it's important, and we hope to replace that as well,” deBruijn says, adding they expect to see more special needs students register when the school year begins in September.
The reduction in special needs students means about 10 of the educational assistant positions are expected be lost this year, along with nearly two teaching positions, though some retirements mean the number of actual losses should be lower.
“We do have a number of staff that retire each year, in a lot of cases we have 25-50 staff retire each year,” Stretch says of the overall district. “In most cases we have more people retiring than the reduction in positions.”
Stretch notes there are over 1,500 people staffed in the district and they are projecting about 30-35 teachers will retire after this school year. That means while they are anticipating just over 20 less positions this year most will likely be covered by the retirements, and the addition of several positions through the Learning Improvement Fund.
Currently the school district is expecting to see about 250 less students for the 2014/2015 school year and while the initial registration period for Kindergarten saw about 90 less students registered than expected the number is now at about 45.
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