Class calendar gets another shake-up
School District 59 is currently looking for input from parents and others about possibly changing a two-week spring break vacation for students to a one-week vacation for the next school year.
“We used to have a standard calendar, and the provincial government took that and said, create your own,” said SD 59 trustee board chair Richard Powell.
At Wednesday’s board meeting, the SD 59 trustee voted to send out two types of calendars to parents, teachers, and other staff about the new calendar. SD 59 superintendent Kathy Sawchuk said that beyond the changes to the length of the spring break, not much else has changed from previous years.
Powell said that no matter which way the input comes back to, the amount of time students spend in school will be the same.
“There would be less days off for them with a one-week spring break, but there would be less minutes in the (school) day,” he added. “To take the second week … you have to add minutes.”
Powell said that these minutes would likely amount to four to eight minutes of additional school time each day.
Based on comments from trustees and staff at the meeting, feelings are mixed about the vacation.
“We’ve received both positive and negative feedback about the two week spring break,” said Rob Dennis, SD 59 assistant superintendent.
“There are still many parents who would want a one-week spring break,” said trustee Wayne Ezard. “We should offer more than one to look at.”
Both calendars will be available on the SD 59 website. School principals and other location managers from SD 59 will help gather the input throughout February. The board will then make its decision at its next board meeting on Feb. 27.
The first day of classes will be Sept. 4, 2013, and the last day for students will be June 26, 2014.
School budget tightens
Despite a tightened budget, SD 59 has put forward a balanced budget, according to treasurer Gerry Slykhuis.
“Anytime they have a reduction in budget there is some impact,” said Powell. “How it will impact students, that’s hard to say. From what I can see, for the next year or so it’s going to have a very limited impact.”
In 2012/2013, SD 59’s budget lost $430,000 due to decreased enrolment in their schools compared to the 2011/2012 school year, according to information presented to the trustees.
“This year not so bad because they have a thing called funding protection. As our enrolment declines, up until now, our revenues have still stayed okay,” said Slykhuis. “Next year will really start to hit.”
When taken with other revenues given to schools, this amounts to a $175,000 decline overall in provincial funding.
Combined with $4.5 million in increased spending from the 2011/2012 school year, this means that the school district has had to spend $1.7 million more than they have revenue. This deficit was made up by pulling surplus dollars from previous school budgets.
“Our premise has always been to be fiscally responsible,” said Powell. That’s why we never go into deficit budget. And over a number of years been on school boards we’ve never been in a deficit budget.”
Despite this reduced school budget, schools in Dawson Creek will still see some changes.
Slykhuis said that the biggest change in Dawson Creek schools was a renovation of the Dawson Creek High School South Peace Campus, estimated to cost $400,000.
“We’re moving offices,” he said. “For the offices – they’ll be moving closer to the front entrance, and we’ll be redoing the front entrance and front of the building because it’s kind of dingy looking.”
Consultant hired to save SD59 bus money
School District 59’s board of trustees has voted in favour of hiring a consulting firm to help it manage a proposed shortfall in funding for school bus transportation for students.
“We had a number of ideas, and we thought it would be good to have someone else come in as well,” said Slykhuis.
At last Wednesday’s board meeting, Slykhuis said that after a tender went out, the company School Bus Consultants was awarded a contract to look at ways on how the School District could save money.
“They’re beginning their work right away, and we hope to have a meeting at the end of March,” he added.
This was praised by one trustee, Judy Claviert, who said it was “the best way to go.”
“Having lived through an almost lynch mob to do with bussing, I want us to be careful about how we solicit what we call input,” she said. “I don’t think parents or general public are in the best seat to make those decisions ... knowing parents of bus students, any change, it doesn’t matter whether it’s 15 minutes or re-routing, parents get really upset about that.”
Slykhuis said that School Bus Consultants will work with the ridership, rather than the community at large, for ways to deal with these funding changes.
“Because we’re looking at such major changes, to not solicit input, I just think it’s worthwhile to let people have their say,” Slykhuis said. “I suspect we’ll get a lot of ideas that we’ve probably already thought of, but there could be ones we didn’t. Those people live on the routes, they live there everyday, they’re might be some things they weren’t expecting.”