Schools across Westman are losing a number of staff, programs and services heading into the 2019-20 school year.
Some school divisions blame reduced funding from the provincial government, inflation and their limited ability to tax those living in the municipality as key reasons for the cuts.
This, Tim DeRuyck said, has been the case in the Turtle Mountain School Division, which is losing two bus routes come September.
"Currently this year we have 20, and we’re reducing that to 18," the superintendent said. "There will be one less bus route in Killarney and one less in the Boissevain area, so there’s some saving there."
They saw a net reduction of approximately $120,000 in funding from the province for the upcoming school year, which they spread across the transportation, maintenance and operation and professional development budget to minimize the impact, he said.
Cutting back the maintenance and operation budget mean replacements that need to be completed in the division will take longer to finish.
"It could be upgrading a washroom, it could be replacing ceiling tiles, it could be replacing some concrete. It just means that we will have to work at our list a little — instead of getting seven things done, we’ll get six things."
For two years in a row they’ve received two per cent less in funding from the province, and if that continues, it’s going to start impacting staffing in schools, he said, which they’ve been trying to prevent from happening.
Rolling River School division is already in that situation.
Come September, they’re losing just over two full-time teaching positions, which they link directly to receiving less funding from the province.
"It’s minimal impact," said Rolling River Supt. Mary-Anne Ploshynsky. "How we do this is we look where there might be a smaller class size."
They’ve kept all their student and program specific educational assistants, and maintained all of their instructional programs.
Beautiful Plains School Division has also maintained all of its programming. They’ve kept all staff positions, but didn’t increase staffing with their growing student body to what they normally would have.
"It varies by school, but we’re understaffed from what we would normally have for our kids," said Beautiful Plains Supt. Jason Young.
Beautiful Plains has reduced its transportation and maintenance budget for the 2019-2020 year, with facility repairs being put off, and had to alter its bus replacement program. The program outlines how often to replace their buses.
"(What that means is) buses running with more kilometres and a little longer, and (we) hope that maintenance costs and repair costs don’t offset what we would have paid to replace a bus," Young said.
An increase in funding that didn’t keep pace with inflationary costs caused the division to make the reductions, he said, leading to having to make some tough decisions.
The Fort La Bosse School Division has also had to make some cuts, eliminating the junior kindergarten program for four-year-olds who were coming into their schools.
Without it, the transition into school might not be as smooth.
"The school readiness for those kids was much more, they were much more ready for school," said Fort La Bosse Supt. Barry Pitz. "I think their transition into our classrooms, into kindergarten was much more positive and much more progressive and I think they got off to better starts."
Fort La Bosse also had to cut alternative education classes in half. The classes are for students who are having difficulty in regular classes, and the alternative classes give them a different setting to cover course work. Although they’ll still be offered it in high schools, it likely won’t be for the same amount of time as it was before.
"I think it just puts more stress on those kids," Pitz said. "I think it was a comfortable place for them, a setting that they were more comfortable with versus having to go to scheduled classes from class to class."
The province directed divisions to cap increases to their local education property tax at two per cent for the 2019-20 school year, which caused them to have to make those reductions, he said.
"(We weren’t able) to address those pitfalls through local taxation."
The superintendents of the Park West School Division and Southwest Horizon School Division did not get back to The Sun before deadline on Wednesday.
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