The Vancouver School Board's continuing education program may be saved.
Senior staff suggested it be axed in the preliminary budget proposal unveiled April 10 to help manage the district's $4.68 million shortfall for 2012/13.
The 105-year-old program hasn't performed well financially in an increasingly competitive market. The budget proposal said dropping continuing education would save the district about $100,000 in 2012/13 and it estimated $150,000 could be earned in rental income of vacated space.
But revised budget proposals released April 24 recommend continuing education be reviewed to develop a plan either to operate it at no cost to the board or transfer all or a part of the program to another organization.
Board chair Patti Bacchus said concern about losing continuing education has dominated reaction to the VSB's preliminary budget proposals. The revised proposal calls for staff to develop a plan for the board's consideration by June 30.
"We've heard more feedback in opposition to proposed cuts to continuing education than anything else in this budget," she told the Courier. "This is the value of a public process, as we really had no real way to gauge public support for the programs until they were put on the chopping block. From the mail and calls I'm getting, they're popular and highly valued by many Vancouverites."
Bacchus said she agrees with many critics who've spoken out on the lack of strong marketing and communication of the programs. "I think it's worth taking a good look at whether they can be made to at least break even, if not even bring in revenue with a careful review of which ones draw the most registrations, scheduling, pricing and perhaps sharing some of the administration with the park board," she said.
Associate superintendent Maureen Ciarniello told the Courier it's difficult to make money in continuing education, even breaking even is difficult.
As recently as 10 years ago, Vancouver's program had about 40,000 registrants, partly because it was a much larger program. "It's been scaled back, so as a result we wouldn't be able to pull those kinds of numbers anyway. We're not offering enough courses to do that," she said.
Registration now sits at about 9,300 students. Most classes are non-academic interest courses such as jewelry making, but some certificate or diploma programs are offered.
Final deliberations and adoption of the budget are scheduled for April 30.
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