Union OK with fewer school days

Teachers’ association, School District 69 agree on a cost-saving measure

Cutting five educational days out of the school calendar is the option the board of education voted in favor of to make up for a $546,175 budget shortfall in School District 69 (Qualicum).

The Mount Arrowsmith Teachers Association (MATA) agreed to the calendar change and it was formally approved at a special budget meeting May 15.

Taking five days off the calendar was the option trustees preferred to stretch the district’s funding dollars.

That alone brings a savings of $100,000 because school support staff don’t have to be paid on those days.

Under Bill 22, the government took the authority away from management and the school board to change the calendar and before the district could cut instructional days an agreement had to be reached with the local teachers association.

MATA President Deb Morran said the agreement will see five instructional days eliminated from the 2012/13 school year.  Instructional minutes will be added on to each teaching day to make up for the lost days.

Morran said the other options to trim the budget would have resulted in fewer teachers and they want as many teachers as possible in the classroom.

“It was the lesser of three evils,” she admitted and added the calendar change isn’t ideal for CUPE members because they do not get paid when schools are closed.

“CUPE continues to take a hit and that was a consideration in our discussions,” she said.

The 2012/13 operating budget which is around 44 million dollars isn’t enough to meet all the costs listed on the spread sheets and other cost saving measures include cutting some custodial supplies and equipment, and eliminating extra-curricular transportation.

At the May 15 meeting board chair Lynette Kershaw said with four trustees being new this year the budget process was brand new to them and the came up with the best document they could and were determined to keep the focus on student needs.

“While other boards are facing tabling a deficient budget, our board has been able to present a balanced budget…it is our best evaluation at this time,” said Kershaw.