VERNON - The Vernon School District plans to bolster programs for mental health, at risk youth and career training as part of next year’s budget.
School District 22 Board of Education chair Kelly Smith says the $97.5-million budget for the 2017/2018 school year will see $692,000 infused into educational initiatives. The investments are possible in large part due to a Supreme Court decision in 2016 that required the provincial government to restore class sizes and class composition to 2002 service levels.
At the same time, the school district is also projecting increased student enrolment — good news since government funding is calculated on a per-pupil basis, Smith says. The district projects an increase of 80 students next year.
“If you look at the graph of student enrolment for 15 years it’s gone down and down and down. But in the last few years, we’ve certainly seen an upswing,” she says.
Of the $692,000 in surplus funds, $70,000 is earmarked for a mental health liaison position, $110,000 for additional mental health initiatives, $110,000 for the Reconnect Program for at-risk youth, and $200,000 to increase technology in classrooms. A full breakdown can be found here.
“The list is long,” Smith says.
Part of the multi-million dollar budget also includes $7.3 million to upgrade the district’s main offices. Smith emphasizes that no classroom funds will be used to pay for the renovation, rather, proceeds from the sale of unneeded properties and funds from the annual facilities grant will be used.
Upgrading the board offices, which were built in 1972, has been put off for many years. Due to capacity challenges, portables were set up for temporary offices in the parking lot.
“Those were never meant to be there forever,” Smith says. “There’s only a certain amount of time you can put off replacing temporary facilities for permanent staff."
The school board gave second reading to the budget on Wednesday and is expected to officially adopt it May 24. Until then, Smith says there is still time for people to provide input.
“It’s not set in stone,” Smith says.
Full budget documents can be found here.
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