Trustees authorized a huge expenditure at their first school board meeting of the year on Sept. 11, voting to send $600,000 of unrestricted surplus out to Coast schools.
“We met with representatives from the SCTA [Sunshine Coast Teachers’ Association] and from CUPE [Canadian Union of Public Employees] and other stakeholder groups last year and they felt that their first priority would be to have some additional boots on the ground, and this is hopefully to try to accommodate that request,” said secretary treasurer Nicholas Weswick at Tuesday night’s board meeting in Gibsons.
Trustees were happy to support the motion.
“When we consulted our employees and parents about allocating surplus funds last year, most of the suggestions involved direct classroom support for students, including more special education, library and fine arts support or smaller class sizes,” said board chair Silas White. “By receiving the funds in early September, our schools will have far more options to best meet the needs of our students from September to June.”
The money is about two-thirds of the total unrestricted surplus currently held by School District No. 46 (SD46). In the past, some surplus funds have been dispersed in February or held over until the spring to be used in the following year’s budget; however, Weswick said September is when the funds are most needed.
“Staffing plans for most schools are developed and revised within the first two weeks of classes. Additional resources could be the difference between adding a division or increasing other supports to students much earlier in the year,” he said.
The Ministry of Education has launched a new anti-bullying strategy that will be implemented locally.
Expect, Respect and a Safe Education (ERASE) is a comprehensive prevention and intervention strategy that will build on current programs already in place.
This year a representative from each school in SD46 will get some training in the program.
Trustees announced they would soon start a public consultation process about enrolment versus capacity issues at West Sechelt Elementary School. A report from Weswick showed that enrolment projections for the elementary school are “still a serious problem despite the fact the estimates are down.”
Options to deal with the capacity issue may include moving Grade 7 students to Chatelech, expanding an early learning centre for kindergarten to Grade 2 students or moving grades 6 and 7 students up to secondary school. There is also a possibility of situating more portables at the site.