The cuts across Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) will not be as deep as originally anticipated thanks to an unexpected infusion of funds from the provincial government.
Superintendent of WCPS Jayson Lovell said news has been received from the minister of education that an additional $904,000 will be allocated to the division.
“That’s a nice chunk of change,” he said. “And we certainly didn’t expect it. It is a real game changer.”
While the funding does not come close to helping WCPS balance its budget — seeing a $2.6 million deficit — the money does alleviate the need to make significant reductions to teachers, social workers and counsellors.
A decision as to allocate the funding has not yet been determined, but all Wolf Creek teachers and administration have been asked to provide input.
Lorrie Jess, WCPS board of trustees chairperson said the money was granted through the Classroom Improvement Fund and wasn’t expected to be available. “This year when we were deliberating budget, the money wasn’t there,” said Jess.
Discussions are being held May 8 with the ATA local and the school board to determine the priorities for the money.
The issue for WCPS, says Jess, is having to deal with an old financial model for inclusive learning. ”We want our special needs profile looked at because it hasn’t been looked at in 12 years.”
In an effort to provide quality care for students with diverse needs WCPS spent $35 million in six years, however, that’s going to change. Jess says she has received numerous calls and emails of concern because of planned cuts to inclusive learning services.
She added that typically WCPS doubles the inclusive learning amount — $6 million from Alberta Education — to meet the needs of students.
A goal to meet with the province is yet to occur but Jess points out that WCPS takes the inclusive learning mandate from Alberta Education seriously. Of the 7,400 students within the division, 12 per cent are students with diverse needs.
Those numbers are up from previous years, said Jess. From the 2014-15 school year to the 2017-18 WCPS saw a 27 per cent increase of Level 3 students (generally those with emotional or behavioural needs). For the same time period, Level 4 students (generally those with physical needs) saw an increase of 46 per cent.
In order to balance the 2018/19 $86.73 million budget, WCPS trustees originally needed to come up with ways to reduce spending by $2.6 million.