Cash for counsellors

More provincial cash for school in District 43. - FILE
More provincial cash for school in District 43.
— image credit: FILE

School District 43 has $1.2 million in extra funds to support large elementary schools and struggling students thanks to strike savings and other surplus funds from this year — but the cash won’t stretch far.

Next Tuesday, the board is expected to approve spending the funds on more counsellor time for elementary schools, a work experience teacher for special needs students and more time for vice-principals at large elementary schools, among other things.

The remaining $268 million budget is set and will be mostly spent on wages and benefits for teachers, support workers and managers who run the district’s 70 schools.

Board chair Melissa Hyndes said the $1.2-million surplus is being used to try to accommodate requests from principals, teachers and parents who spoke about the budget during this year’s deliberations.

“I think we did make an attempt to look at all of the requests to accommodate some of what was asked for,” said Hyndes. But she pointed out there is never enough money to address all the issues. One concern that was raised and not addressed with this funding is a concern of shop teachers that their classes are too large for project work.

Hyndes said she hoped shop and middle school exploratory class sizes could be reduced by other means, including the $3.1-million Learning Improvement Fund.

In the meantime, she said, adding counsellor time to elementary schools will be a boon for struggling students, some of whom are dealing with anxiety and behaviour issues.

“We’re looking at how we can maximize that and work with the kids,” she said of the $100,000 to be set aside for extra counselling.

Programs of choice will also be getting extra funding next year. The district is expected to spend $125,000 on providing supports for Reggio Emilia and Montessori speciality programs and a middle-school cluster class for gifted students, and to establish another International Baccalaureate program (there is currently one at Port Moody secondary).

While only incremental changes can be made to the operating budget with that bit of extra cash, the district will have $3.1 million from the Learning Improvement Fund to spend on class size and composition issues.
About $2.6 million will likely be spent on teachers, with the remaining $415,000 on training and extra hours for special education assistants.
Hyndes, a Port Moody trustee, said the money could be used to reduce the size of classes or provide support for struggling, at-risk or special needs students. The teaching portion, for example, is the equivalent of about 26 full-time teaching positions.
Across the province, $195 million in LIF funds will be dolled out to districts over three years, including $30 million from strike savings. In the next school year, districts will receive $60 million, followed by $60 million in 2013/’14 and $75 million in 2014/’15.
According to the Ministry of Education, the money can be used to hire extra teachers and special education assistants, provide more instruction time and offer more professional development for teachers dealing with complex student needs.
But concerns have been raised that funds won’t go as far in subsequent years because of step-ups and benefits, and because total education funding will be frozen from 2012 to 2015.







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