Shuswap district prepared for start of classes

It’s almost back to the books for North Okanagan-Shuswap students

It’s almost back to the books for North Okanagan-Shuswap students.

Summer comes to an end when classes resume throughout the district Tuesday.

“The beginning of the school year is always an exciting time for students, parents and teachers,” said superintendent Glenn Borthistle.

“We are looking at a great year ahead for our students.”

The district’s focus for 2013/14 will include early education and specifically reading, building resiliency among special needs students and student/community engagement.

It’s anticipated there will be about 6,000 students in the district, down 240 from last year.

“It’s a continuing pattern that we’re seeing due to demographic changes,” said Borthistle of an aging population and declining birth rate.

A reduction in enrolment has financial implications as the district receives $6,900 per student from the Ministry of Education.

Earlier in 2013,  the district slashed $1.8 million from the 2013/14 budget.

Principal and vice-principal time was reduced so they can teach more and there were 12 teachers lost.

All supply budgets were trimmed and storefront schools in Armstrong, Enderby,  Salmon Arm and Sicamous were restructured.

Tight finances are not likely to go away any time soon as enrolment continues to shrink.

“We anticipate further tough decisions to make,” said Borthistle.

And there wouldn’t be a return to classes without the possibility of job action.

Contract talks between the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association came to a halt early in August. Talks are scheduled to resume this week.

The union  includes bus drivers, custodians, education assistants, youth workers, clerical staff and district tradespeople.

“I feel fairly optimistic about the situation being resolved,” said Borthistle.

“The question will be funding any settlements reached at the table.”