ADAM JACKSON/Ponoka News
More than 40 fulltime positions will be cut by Wolf Creek Public Schools for the 2011-2012 school year.
In a budget meeting on June 1, the board adopted an $80 million preliminary budget with a deficit of $292,228.
The school board does have a reserve to cover the deficit, but trustees were forced to cut 5.2 certified positions as well as 36.9 support staff positions — 22 of which are tied to special needs programs.
One reason for the drastic cuts to fulltime positions is that both certificated and non-certificated staff at schools across the division will receive a 4.5-per-cent increase in wages. Certificated staff are entitled to this raise, under a five-year contract with the provincial government, but non-certificated staff are not.
“We need to make sure that our staff know that they are appreciated here,” said Wolf Creek Public Schools superintendent Larry Jacobs.
According to the board, the cuts to special education staff were caused in part by the Government of Alberta inadequately funding those programs.
The board is also facing a deficit of $419,000 in transportation alone. This deficit was caused by lower enrolment as well as fewer grants from the Government of Alberta.
To combat the deficit, the board plans to drop five bus routes by combining separate routes.
These cuts still leave the board with a deficit of $100,000 in transportation.
“The ridership is down, but for all intents and purposes, we have to still cover all of the geography of Wolf Creek Public Schools,” said Jacobs. “That might mean a slightly longer drive time for the students and drivers, though.”
Details for the route changes are still being worked out, but Jacobs says that aside from the five routes being cut, further changes must be made to the transportation system.
Another major factor in budgeting for transportation is the price of fuel, says Jacobs.
“We really have to keep an eye on the price of diesel,” said Jacobs.
“That is one of the largest expenses in the transportation budget.”
Wolf Creek is not the only public school board that has been forced to cut full-time positions. According to the Alberta Teachers Association, there will be 1,000 fewer teaching jobs across the province for the upcoming school year.
The job cuts have spurred protests by teachers, but Premier Ed Stelmach said on May 27 that the teachers themselves are to blame for the job cuts.
“We were at the table, they were at the table as well. But what they wanted was simply unachievable,” said Stelmach.
“We asked for consideration. It didn’t happen and, as a result, some teachers, especially temporary teachers, will not have a job.”
The provincial government is currently in a cost-cutting mode to combat its growing deficit.
The school board is unsure how the job cuts will affect classroom sizes, as enrolment numbers will not be available until September.
“In some schools it will be higher and in others, it might now affect the classroom size because of lower enrolment,” said Roger Hall, assistant secretary-treasurer.
According to Hall, the teachers who have their contracts terminated will be notified by the principal at their school and will receive notification from the board as well. The board insists that it will not package off teachers that are close to retirement.
“With the five (certificated teachers), we’ve been able to do it with mostly teachers that are retiring anyway,” said Hall. “We haven’t had to touch the continuing contract teachers at this point.”