Education minister Peter Fassbender said it's never easy when faced with the challenges this local school district is currently facing.
With a trend of declining enrolment and a $1.3 million deficit this year, this district, like others around the province, need to look at all of the options available to balance a budget, he said.
"It's never easy when you talk about change, but you know we have to look at surplus facilities and all of those things and say what is going to ensure the one thing and that is we have the maximum dollars in the classroom for every student that is in each one of the districts."
Fassbender was at Family Place in Parksville on Friday to meet with school administration staff and trustees during a province-wide tour of schools districts. He said he was doing the tour to see the good work going on in districts around the province.
He confirmed there would be no additional funding coming to school districts this year, but during the working lunch with trustees, local board chair Lynette Kershaw said Fassbender seemed open to another idea that could help them with their budget issues this year.
That’s the idea that the board would submit a two or three-year budget, instead of a one-year budget, allowing for a deficit this year which would then be corrected within a couple of years. This was something they had discussed with him in the past, she said.
“He reiterated that he would be open to looking at more than a one year budget submitted by a school district if it could show a reasonable amount of a return-on-investment if you will, after a number of years, where you could show it would be filling a need within a school district for continued services to children.”
During a 15-minute question and answer with local media before his lunch with staff and trustees, Fassbender said the curriculum in the province continues to evolve, along with society and the economy, in order to provide students with the tools they need for a successful educational journey. Fassbender and his staff are working hard to change the dialogue in society, he said, and the mindset that trades aren’t as good as a university education.
“While university education is a wonderful thing for those that want to go there, we want to young people and parents and communities to know there’s great opportunity here for them in a whole host of careers.”
Fassbender, who was a school trustee himself in the 1970s, said ministry staff will work with this district as well with others around the province, to see what they can do to help find savings. He encouraged trustees to look at shared services with the community and municipalities.
Following the working lunch, Fassbender went on a tour of Family Place and Springwood Middle School, where multi-age grouping is happening for certain classes this year. Students in those programs were very engaging and well-prepared while sharing their work with the minister, trustees and staff, Kershaw said.