Continuing education cuts loom in New West

The New Westminster school district’s daytime and late-afternoon continuing education programs might be on the chopping block at the next school board meeting.

The Pearson Adult Learning Centre is part of the old New Westminster Secondary School and set to be demolished. There is no space in the district, including the new high school, for the daytime programs, according to board chair Anita Ansari.

“It’s kind of a multi-layer problem in that we discovered that when we looked at it holistically and when we look at how we’re getting a new school in the space that the program occupies currently, we have to move off that space because it’s part of where the deconstruction and decommissioning is happening,” she said.

“And so we have to do something about the day program because we can’t host it at the high school during the daytime.”

The issue is also the cost, she said, as continuing education students are usually only taking one or two courses at a time, so the district needs eight students taking a course to equal the funding they get for one full-time student.

“We find we’re getting a budget shortfall where we’re trying to run a program with a lot less money but a lot more people doing the one or two courses they need to be able to move on in their educational journey,” Ansari said. “In the past, I guess we weren’t really aware of this number.”

The board is looking at the overall viability of the district’s continuing education programs and will be considering the future of the night program by February next year, in time for the 2021/22 budget.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, school trustees voted unanimously to postpone a decision on shutting down the daytime programs until the March 10 school board meeting, at the request of superintendent Karim Hachlaf.

The school district’s secretary-treasurer is presenting at an upcoming school board committee meeting and will have more information about the budget for the 2020/21 school year then, he said.

“I do recommend it would be beneficial that the board make its decision after having the chance to have that data in front of the board and being able to see the clear financial impact,” he said at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The school board also voted unanimously to send a letter to the Ministry of Education, asking that the ministry increase per student full-time equivalency funding for adult continuing education from $4,773 (63% of school-age FTE funding) to $6,348 (85% of school-age FTE funding).

The school district is also working to find other continuing education options outside of the district and to communicate those options to students.

 

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