Financial challenges haven’t stopped the Vernon School District from hammering out a new financial plan.
On Wednesday, trustees gave first reading to a $90.5 million budget for 2016/17.
“The budget revolves around the learning of students — the education component,” said trustee Mitzi Fortin.
Some adjustments were made to the plan, including maintaining a secondary school behaviour specialist and expanding secondary counsellors and resource-based teacher time.
There will also be additional vice-principal time in the district’s most vulnerable schools.
A decision has also been made to defer a fee for courtesy riders on school buses for a year as the facilities review is underway.
“If we redraw school boundaries, we’d like to do it all at once,” said Joe Rogers, superintendent, adding that a final decision on fees will be made this December.
Trustees’ support for the budget came after a presentation Wednesday from the Vernon Teachers Association.
“Teachers’ priorities come right from the classroom based on student learning needs,” said Lisa Laboucane, VTA president.
Laboucane called for more direct class support, including for special education, aboriginal student achievement and resources to implement the new curriculum.
A push was also made to decrease class sizes so the district is below the provincial average.
“Class size is one of the best ways to improve student success. Teachers are feeling the cuts that have been happening for years,” said Laboucane.
Prior to the budget receiving first reading, trustee Lisa de Boer attempted to have about $30,000 directed towards transit bus passes for special education students.
“These are passes so they can get out and experience the community. It’s life skills development,” she said.
However, de Boer garnered no support.
“We have had no information on this and I am reluctant to vote on an amendment without background information,” said Kelly Smith, chairperson.
The issue of transit for special education students could come back the board with further details from administration.
A board meeting will be held May 11 so trustees can pursue the 2016/17 budget further.