By Justin Seward
Prairie Rose School Division was a part of all the school divisions across the province that are affected by the recent funding cuts that was announced by Education Minister on March 28.
It was announced that during the COVID-19 pandemic that funding for transportation services, substitute services and education assistants is being temporarily reduced while in-class remains the same.
“What we received notice on was a 14 per cent grant reduction in (a) base grant for the months of May and June and that has impact on some of our staffing levels,” said Clarke.
In terms of the 14 per cent reduction in base funding, the impact on PRSD is $431, 442.
Clarke says the school district looked around all of its budget areas and identified where they are not spending.
“We have some things that we would have budgeted for throughout the course of the year which we now no longer have to pay for because it’s being done differently,” he said.
PRSD consulted with their school principals in budgets that would have otherwise been allocated to their buildings to help if they needed to and worked with support staff to see where layoffs could be.
As a result, the school district avoided substantial layoffs for May and June.
“We have 40 people who will be laid off from Prairie Rose and it will work in their lives,” said Clarke.
“Instead of laying off 128 EA people, it will be around that 40 number. It will work for them; they can be at home and access other financial supports through federal programs.
Clarke says it’s a softer way of doing it, rather than going across the board and lying off all the support staff.
He also clarified that the layoffs now will have no bearing on the support staff hirings in September.
PRSD saw a significant percentage cut in the transportation sector.
“The second area was the funding for transportation and that was 51 per cent reduction funding for the months of April, May and June,” he said.
Clarke says with transportation they wanted to ensure the contractors the school division works with, that they would be ready to respond if school opened up again.
“These people made a commitment to purchasing buses and to making sure their operation can continue to function,” he said.
“So it’s difficult when all of sudden when there is no transportation happening and if all funds were to dry up so to speak, how would they be ready to respond to the school system that really do need them. Prairie Rose does not have any of our own drivers. We have contractors that bid on contracts. So 51 per cent is going to disappear for these three months. We have 49 per cent left, we have some over head there to pay for in our own school division and then we are going to be providing dollars to our own contractors.”