Peace Wapiti Public School Division (PWSD) appreciates the work of government to prioritize education and is pleased to see continued funding for enrolment growth and additional support for school nutrition programs.
In their 2018-2021 Capital Plan, the PWSD Board identified the need for three new schools – a replacement Harry Balfour School, a Grades 9-12 school located north of Grande Prairie to replace Peace Wapiti Academy and reduce ride times for students from rural feeder schools, and a K-8 school in Clairmont Heights to respond to enrolment growth in the area. However, no new PWSD schools were listed among the province's approved school capital projects for Year 1.
"We are awaiting further direction from the ministry on the $78,000 increase to PWSD's school nutrition funding and how it is to be allocated – to a single school or multiple schools," says Superintendent Sheldon Rowe. "Based on the amount, it appears we will be able to enhance our current program."
"While the slight increase to transportation funding is encouraging, the current grant does not recognize the actual transportation costs for a large rural school board," adds Mr. Rowe.
For the long term, there are concerns about a budget that does not recognize inflationary pressures and how they may impact the classroom.
Of note in Budget 2018 is the continued arbitrary reduction in the administrative portion of PWSD's instruction grant that was cut by approximately $350,000 several years ago. This year, the grant saw a further reduction of $124,000.
"Given the increasing work load created by the Minister's new reporting requirements for school fees, Infrastructure Maintenance Renewal (IMR) capitalization and monthly financial reporting, we are concerned how we will continue to meet our growing administrative responsibilities," adds Mr. Rowe.
Budget 2018 has also brought an end to the Classroom Improvement Fund (CIF), part of the central agreement reached between the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) and the Teachers' Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) in May 2017. Under the agreement, school boards and teachers created a joint proposal for how to use the funding. At PWSD, the CIF funded two district-wide remedial reading programs and a community wellness project that saw increased mental health and wellness supports in the classroom and for individual students and their families.
"We are concerned how this change will impact remedial reading programming and the enhanced mental health and wellness focus for our students," adds Mr. Rowe.