Local boards say Provincial budget cuts have limited impact on returning students

September 5, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

When schools open their doors for the new school year next Tuesday, attending students won’t see a big difference at either the elementary or high school level, according to local school boards.

While provincial budget cuts have been in the news for the past several months, local school boards have been working to get their schedules, classes, and personnel requirements in line for the new year.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB), which administers 26 high schools in the region, is expecting enrolment numbers to remain fairly stable taking into consideration that numbers routinely fluctuate every year. Actual enrollment numbers are calculated at the end of October.

The DPCDSB said they have worked with their current budget to make sure things run smoothly when classes are underway.

“As a result of provincial funding reductions, the DPCDSB was required to reduce approximately $16 million in expenditures,” said a spokesperson from the school board. “Consequently, a number of very difficult financial decisions had to be made in order to balance the 2019 / 20 budget, as required by legislation.”

As far as teaching positions, the Board has managed to retain all of it’s staff and is currently working to retain support staff.

“170 teaching positions were eliminated, however everyone who received surplus notice will be returning in September. Additionally a number of support staff positions were eliminated and we are working to place as many of those affected in other positions for which they are qualified.”

The Upper Grand District School Board’s enrollment projection is expected to see some growth in enrolment at the elementary school level this year with a slight decline in high school numbers. This reflects the fluctuating number of children born in a single year.

The UGDSB has 11 high schools and 65 elementary schools in their district.

The board has managed to retain staff by moving people around and replacing other positions vacated through attrition and retiring staff.

“Last year we had to issue layoff notices to teachers, but that is something we are required to do by a collective agreement,” explained Heather Loney, Communications and Community Engagement Officer for the UGDSB. 

“By a certain date you are required to give out layoff notices as you plan your staffing for the next year. However, we were successful in recalling all of those teachers and rescinding all of those layoff notices. For the 2019-20 school year there will be no layoffs in our board to any permanent staff in any employee group. 

“There were funding changes and funding reductions experienced by our Board and boards across the province. We were able to recall staff after a great deal of consultation, and a line-by-line review of our expenditures and our revenues. We recalled central staff to central positions. If someone were to retire, we would fill that position with an existing staff member but we wouldn’t hire, which allowed us to keep all of the staff and not layoff anybody. There were no layoffs, however there were reductions made to the number of total positions in various employee groups.”

Ms. Loney said that although they have managed to avoid layoffs this year, future cuts over the next four years may require laying off staff.

The budget cuts have resulted in some classes being removed at the high school level.

“We did have to cancel 98 courses in secondary for this school year,” Ms. Loney explained. “Many of those courses may have been canceled regardless of Ministry funding changes. For instance, there just aren’t enough students signed up for those courses and that happens every year. Students were impacted by this. They had fewer electives to choose from. High school principals are really great at thinking of creative ways to maximize course offerings.”

Secondary school class sizes will not change since new rules announced by the provincial government last march, but there will be an expected increase in class sizes over the next four years.

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