For the Vernon School District, extra money means more resources for students.
In September, trustees approved the use of some funds that had become available as a result of the Ministry of Education’s redirecting administrative savings to school districts.
“There was some discussion about how to get these resources in front of kids,” said superintendent Joe Rogers.
“Over the past few weeks, I have met with school administrators and district staff to discuss pressures created through enrolment increase, including newly arrived students with special needs.”
Enrolment pressures have meant the addition of a new primary division at Kidston Elementary.
“We had no room at either Hillview and Coldstream for any Grade 3 child and very little room for any Grade 2 children, and I really want to thank the Kidston staff and especially the principal Debbie (Cullum),” said Rogers.
“It’s very difficult at this time of year to add a division, but she did a fantastic job of taking groups of kids so that they would be with their friends and move them into the new division, with all the class sizes in primary now smaller teachers can give more individual attention.”
Extra funding has meant a number of changes to instruction, including the addition of speech-language pathologist time at both Cherryville and Silver Star.
Some school-based resource teacher time has been added to VLearn, which now has 82 elementary students enrolled, some with learning needs.
Rogers said many schools had also requested more education assistant time, so EA hours have been increased at Hillview, Okanagan Landing, Silver Star, Mission Hill, BX, Coldstream, Ellison, Harwood and Charles Bloom.
There has also been an increase of five hours per week for occupational therapists to work with the school-based resource teachers.
“We’re talking about how to work well with kids with autism and one of the things is to make sure they have the right physical therapy so they can learn to self-regulate,” said Rogers.
Also added is in-service training for teachers: CPI, which is non-violent crisis intervention training, and the Provincial Outreach Program for Autism and Related Disorders (POPARD) training, a one-week course for teachers who work with children with autism.
“Some of the things a lot of principals said is the district is fantastic at giving us more resources but we need time to talk, so you can give us a behaviour teacher but they don’t always have time to meet with the Grade 6/7 teacher to talk about kids that need support, so this will bring in TOCs to be able to free up teachers to work with the district specialists so they can provide the best service to kids,” said Rogers.
With the new B.C. curriculum integrating aboriginal history, culture and perspectives, $7,500 in funding is going towards providing Story of our Ways resources for every school, in partnership with the district’s aboriginal department.
“In our strategic plan we talked about understanding aboriginal ways of knowing and learning, but there are not that many reading resources for the little guys so this is levelled text for beginning readers,” said Rogers.
Ongoing funding of $5,000 goes towards counselling services. The district works with Axis Intervention to provide after-school counselling for kids with drug and alcohol issues.
“That’s more of a stipend — it costs much more than that — but the organization is a fantastic support to the school district,” said Rogers.
The district also receives an annual Learning Improvement Fund grant from the ministry, for increasing EAs and teacher time in school.
“We added $100,000 back in and we have a little bit left for the second semester to look at any second semester pressures,” said Rogers.
With $100,000 the average cost for a full-time equivalent teacher for one full year, the district has provided extra literacy support at J.W. Inglis, Hillview and Bloom; counselling at Lavington and Beairsto, a Connections block at Kalamalka and a support block at Seaton.
“We think we are up 39 kids this year but we’re also up in identified special needs kids; we’ll get over $300,000 in enrolment increase and another couple hundred thousand dollars in special ed. It’s important that when we get those numbers confirmed that we put the services in to those special ed kids,” said Rogers.
“Overall it’s great news, you can see that we’re putting a lot more resources in the schools to support children and to provide more staffing. It’s an excellent way to start the school year instead of saying we’re cutting, we’re adding back in and finding ways to support kids.”