Staffing cuts, transportation changes and a kindergarten schedule switch are among the decisions contained in the Prairie South School Division (PSSD) 2017-18 operating budget, which was approved this week.
In drafting the document, PSSD had to deal with a provincial funding cut of more than four per cent, as the recent provincial budget reduced education spending to all school divisions in Saskatchewan.
More than 40 positions within the division were affected by the Prairie South decisions, including more than 13 teaching positions.
PSSD director of education Tony Baldwin said they arrived at that number by adjusting their staffing formula which, for schools in Moose Jaw and Assiniboia, meant going from 24 students per teacher to 25 students per teacher in Grades 4-12.
Baldwin said the cutbacks would be felt more in areas where enrolment is low.
“In some schools, there’s a more significant staff loss and in other schools, there may even be a staffing gain if they’re going up in (enrolment),” explained Baldwin, who said that all of the teaching reductions would take place through attrition.
As for the other job losses, Baldwin said they are spread across a number of departments.
“We’ve reduced one superintendent, one manager, we’ve had about a thirty per cent reduction in our senior admin team … some of those we’ll be able to cover through attrition, but there are a large number of people losing their jobs.”
PSSD is also making what it calls “major” changes to transportation.
“There are big changes in how we deal with rural catchment, how we deal with grandfathered transportation arrangements,” said Baldwin, who added, “we’ll do some different busing in Moose Jaw connected to full-day kindergarten.”
He said Moose Jaw elementary schools will now switch to full-day kindergarten classes every second day, as opposed to the current model of a half-day every weekday. A major reason for the switch was the savings realized by eliminating the need for noon-hour buses picking up kindergarten students, but that wasn’t the only consideration.
“We do full-day kindergarten in all of our other schools in Prairie South and so there’s some benefits to consistency of programming,” he explained. “But certainly the noon transportation piece is a significant expense and we believe we can provide just as good a program on a full-day basis as we can on a half-day basis.
Other highlights from the Prairie South 2017-18 operating budget:
- Peacock Collegiate will receive a significant upgrade to their HVAC and heating system.
- A portable classroom will be built at Sunningdale School to relieve enrolment pressures. The Board will review enrolment pressures at Lafleche School and will continue to pursue a solution there.
- A Graduation Coach model will be implemented in Moose Jaw high schools to target increased graduation rate outcomes.