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Cuts move ahead in North Okanagan-Shuswap schools
North Okanagan-Shuswap school trustees went forward with a budget that will involve cuts.
The reductions are being made in order to accommodate a $1.8 million deficit.
“Many hours have been spent making these difficult decisions,” said Bobbi Johnson, board chairperson, Tuesday.
“We take this decision to heart.”
A reduction in enrolment, which is expected to continue to decline, resulted in staffing and supply reductions that saved $620,000, but the district was left with a remaining $1.2 million that needed to be cut from school district operations.
The budget cuts include $20,000 for music programs, $20,000 for hearing impaired services, $40,000 for special education teachers and $50,000 in cuts to counselling staff.
Other reductions will be made to speech and language pathologists, the adult education program, and gifted student programs.
Jennifer Henrie, who has a son who struggles with a language impairment, made a speech to the board asking them to reconsider making cuts to speech and language pathologists.
“Speech and language pathologists should not be cut, spending money on SLPs in the school is not a wasted endeavour or an elective,” said Henrie. “It’s core, it’s essential.”
Another substantial cut being made will be the change in elementary and middle school teacher/librarian staffing ratios to match those of the secondary school level. This will result in the loss of nearly three full-time positions and a savings of $283,400.
Shannon Murrels-Allaway, teacher/librarian at Parkview Elementary School in Sicamous, is upset with every cut that was proposed in the budget.
“I’m very concerned for our B.C. youth and school systems. There’s so many basics that aren’t being covered,” she said.
The school board made it clear that it has looked at all options available to eliminate the impact the budget cuts will have on parents, students and staff.
“What we are left with to meet the budgets short falls are nothing less than human beings,” said trustee Bob Fowler.
“If the government isn’t willing to invest, that’s what we’re left with.”
The possible solution to the cuts that was presented was the public getting involved and speak out to the Ministry of Education.
“Realistically, the public has been mute on it,” said trustee Barry Chafe.
“Unless the public at large sends a message that this is not acceptable, nothing will change.”
Heather McDonald, a teacher at Shuswap Middle School, suggested making a public display such as a Honk for Public Education campaign.
“Certainly, we can wake up some people,” said McDonald. “Let’s act, let’s get on it, the time has come.”
The budget will move forward to the June 10 meeting where the annual budget bylaw will be presented for approval.