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May 31 Umbrella School Council Meeting

May 31, 2022 - Summary


  1. Introductions
    • The Board of Trustees, Administration and all participants were introduced at the start of the meeting.
  2. Budget Presentation
    • Board Chair, Daryl Scott, reviewed the WRSD 2022-23 budget, including some of the challenges the Division is facing.
    • Prior to approving the 2022-23 budget, the Division reviewed spending in every department. This resulted in reductions to almost every department in the Division. Even so, we still ended up with a $1.4 million deficit budget. 
    • The Board is looking for input from school councils regarding ways to balance our budget for the following school year in 2023-24.
  3. Comments & Questions
    • Operations and Maintenance is an area where our spending is significantly higher than the funding we receive for this purpose. This is due to our low utilization rates and a funding formula that rewards having high utilization rates. The average utilization rate for WRSD schools is currently only 65%. The government wants school utilization rates to be 90% or better.
    • A suggestion was made that WRSD should improve our utilization rates as quickly as possible.  For example, even if the government does not approve a new or modernized school in Rocky Mountain House, the Division should start looking at the possibility of increasing the number of students in each Rocky school by way of closing one school in Rocky Mountain House. Similar strategies are currently being implemented in Drayton Valley and the corridor that will result in one less school in each of these areas.
    • The Board should host a budget meeting every spring for school councils. 
    • The Board plans on having multiple meetings next year to keep parents informed and to seek further input regarding our budget.
    • Why are we building new schools instead of putting that money into staffing that will support student learning and wellbeing? School Divisions need to ensure their school buildings are updated, safe and fully functional. Many of our school buildings are getting older and will eventually be in need of a major modernization or replacement. Each year the Division informs the government which of our schools are most in need of modernization by way of submitting a capital plan. However, the approval and funding for these capital requests is made by the government. Each year they receive more than 400 such requests from school divisions across the province with less than 20 projects approved on an annual basis. The dollars used for these capital projects are not available to school divisions for staffing purposes.
    • Several concerns were expressed that the reduction in teachers and especially educational assistants will result in some students not receiving the kind of support they need while at school. It is feared that the reduction in educational assistants will also put more pressure on teachers, who are already exhausted due to the disruption in learning and increased mental health needs of students. A suggestion was made that the Division should look at every other area of spending before cutting frontline workers. 
    • A question was asked why some schools have had their educational assistant allocation drastically reduced for 2022-23 and more so than some other schools in the Division. The allocation process is based on data provided to the division office Student Services Department from teachers and administrators at each school. This data includes Student Impact Profiles, Individual Program Plans, Critical Incident Reports, Behavior Support Plans, Medical Management Response Plans and Log Entries. From this data, our Student Services department allocates educational assistant support to the students with the highest needs. Unfortunately, with limited funds we are not able to hire as many educational assistants for 2022-23 as we had during the 2020-21 school year. Teachers that are struggling with a student in their class that no longer has an educational assistant are encouraged to reach out to our Student Services department for additional assistance and support.
    • Classrooms are so diverse and mental health needs are so great due to COVID. It's not fair to remove educational assistant support from some students because their needs are not as great as other students or their needs aren't considered to be great enough to to be funded.
    • Ideas discussed regarding ways to reduced spending included:
      • Reduce travel and professional development costs.
      • Reduce the number of instructional days in order to save money on bussing and utility costs. In 2021-22 WRSD paid $29,000 per day for busing. It was noted that in order to reduce the number of days of instruction, the school day would need to be slightly lengthened. For example, we could reduce 3 student days by adding approximately 5 minutes to each of the remaining school days.
      • Start charging bus fees and/or technology fees to parents.
    • The Division plans on having an external consultant review our entire operations in order to see if there are some other efficiencies we are missing. 
    • The Board is writing letters to the government regarding specific areas of under funding. The Board also encourages parents to write their MLA as parents have a strong voice and are able to hold their elected representatives accountable by way of the election process.
    • Letters written by the Board to the Minister in 2021-22
  4. Conclusion
    • The Board Chair thanked everyone for attending and invited anyone interested to send any further ideas they might have to

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