School balanced calendar program axed

Student Jack MacInnis addresses the school board. - Gaeil Farrar photo
Student Jack MacInnis addresses the school board.
— image credit: Gaeil Farrar photo

School District 27 trustees have cancelled the balanced calendar program at Cataline Elementary School.

Cancelling the program is expected to save $173,000 of the $1.6 million deficit the district is facing to balance its 2014/15 operating budget.

The savings will be derived from a reduction in utility costs, staffing (administrative, teaching, custodial) and busing costs according to a report from Secretary Treasurer Kevin Futcher.

Trustees voted to cancel the program Tuesday evening during their regular board meeting over pleas from a small group of parents and students in the audience to keep the program.

Student Jack MacInnis explained to the board how much he liked the program.

Parent Tara Sharp talked about the benefits of the balanced calendar program and smaller schools, adding that some parents were considering moving their children to private schools or home schooling them if the program was cancelled.

She said the students were already traumatized by the closing of their school last year and having the school’s student body split off to two different schools, and it would be unfair to make them go through another change.

After Glendale Elementary School was closed last June, the French Immersion program at the school was moved to Nesika elementary and the Balanced Calendar program was moved to Cataline elementary in September.

Sharp also questioned why some schools such as Wildwood elementary with low enrolments were being kept open at the expense of the balanced calendar program.

Superintendent Mark Thiessen explained that the district receives additional grants from the Ministry of Education to keep rural schools open.

The trustees discussed the pros and cons of the decision to cancel the balanced calendar program at length and took turns explaining and apologizing for having to make the decision to cut the program.

In addition to having to find measures to balance the district’s budget, they noted enrolment in the balanced calendar program had dropped.

There were 52 students in the balanced calendar program at Glendale but when it  was moved to Cataline last fall enrolment dropped to 28 students.

As Chair Tanya Guenther started to explain the situation, one parent in the audience shouted that the district had done nothing to promote the balanced calendar program.

In cancelling the program the trustees also agreed to send copies of the district’s school of choice policy to each of the families affected by the change.

Assistant Superintendent Harj Manhas said he had personally contacted each of the families in the program to explain the situation and ask where they would like their students placed next year.

Thiessen said he hoped that most parents of children in the balanced calendar program would choose to keep their children together at Cataline with their friends.

In a separate presentation the secretary treasurer outlined other areas where the district is working to balance its 2014/15 operating budget.


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