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School student enrolment down significantly due to COVID-19

Schools Superintendent Anita Richardson

Even though school restarted earlier this month, it appears many parents are keeping their children at home. And that is having an impact on the School District 57 budget.

The regular classroom student enrolment from Kindergarten to Grade 12 is down approximately 425 full time equivalent students from the 2019/2020 school year and could continue to decline over the next week. As the school district receives funding from the Ministry of Education on a per-student FTE basis, the decrease would result in a $3.2 million reduction in enrolment funding, according to the district.

“This year is an unusual year because families have had to make tough decisions about whether they return their children to school based on a variety of factors,” said SD57 Superintendent Anita Richardson. “We are making the best decisions we can in a less-than-ideal situation, and this is not the way we want to start any school year.”

The school district anticipates that it will be placed into funding protection to lessen the impact of these challenges. It is important to note that final school-based decisions will not be made until final student enrolment is known. There may still be movement of students between the SD57 bricks-and-mortar schools, the SD57 Distributed Learning program and homeschooling.

“On a positive note our distributed learning program has seen an increase of approximately 146 student FTE over the 2019/2020 school year,” Richardson said. “This represents a significant increase in our program, particularly in elementary, and will add approximately $900,000 in student enrolment funding. Unfortunately, this is more than $200,000 less than would have been generated had the students attended in regular classrooms.

“While there may be some disruption for students in schools whose classes are reorganized to recognize this budget challenge, we are doing our best to ensure we have appropriate supports in place for both students and staff. We know that teachers and staff in our schools have worked very hard to build relationships and rapport with all of our students and that all staff will continue to do that work within their new class configurations.”

She added the district believes it will be able to find placements for our teachers who may be affected.

“In most cases, teachers on continuing contracts will be provided the opportunity to work in other positions,” she said. “The district is adding staffing in areas such as distributed learning, transitional support and home support to address some of the increased challenges in those areas. Teachers on limited duration contracts may be given the opportunity to become TTOCs (teachers teaching on call) until other positions become available through circumstances such as maternity leave.”

The school district has received funding from the provincial and federal governments. This money will be utilized towards the very specific items identified by the provincial government as well as learning and resource supports and health and safety measures as determined necessary in schools, particularly at this time.

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