The Vancouver School Board passed its 2012/13 budget Monday night and there were few surprises except for the decision to cut back on district closure days.
For the past two years, 10 additional days were lopped off the school year to save money—about $100,000 a day. A few minutes were added to each day to make up for the loss.
Some parents, however, found it difficult to find childcare when school was out. Based on feedback, trustees decided to reduce district days off from 10 to five for an estimated savings of $500,000. Students will get four days added to spring break, for a total of two weeks off, plus a day off Nov. 9.
Board chair Patti Bacchus, a Vision Vancouver trustee, called the decision a compromise.
“We had mixed responses. We heard a lot of people like the two-week spring break, but a lot of parents were having trouble with all the days off through the year when you combine them with Pro D days and stat holidays,” she said. “People were scrambling for childcare—finding it and then of course the additional costs.”
Bacchus also acknowledged it’s not educationally beneficial to add a few minutes each day to make up for days off.
Supporters of continuing education can breathe a sigh of relief—at least temporarily. Senior staff’s initial budget proposal recommended the program be axed because it’s costing the VSB to maintain the 105-year-old program. But the board went with staff’s revised budget proposal, which allows time to develop an “action plan” by June to either operate it at no cost to the board or transfer all or part of continuing ed to another organization.
Some cuts to adult education went ahead, but one full-time equivalent position was spared—a $90,000 difference from the initial proposal.
Two other VSB positions were granted extra time—the anti-homophobia mentor position and the diversity (formerly known as anti-racism) mentor position.
The positions used to be allotted 80 per cent of a full-time equivalent position, which amounted to four days a week. That had been cut to two days a couple of years ago. On Monday, trustees added one day back to each of the positions.
“They’re teachers who work in the district office mentoring and supporting teachers in the schools and working directly, in some cases, with students and families,” Bacchus said. “It’s a small shift, but the feedback we’re hearing is that the demand for their support in the district is high. We’d like to be able to move them to full-time positions, but at this point it’s still a shortfall budget.”
Bacchus said extra costs associated with these budget decisions are covered by savings outlined in revised budget proposals and trustees also agreed to dip further into the capital reserve. The School Act requires school boards to pass balanced budgets.