It was standing room only at the school board’s first public input session to its preliminary 2014-2015 budget Tuesday evening.
Students played strings at the start of the meeting and carried placards that read “Sports keep kids in school” and “Stop bullying our kids,” while concerned parents stood at the back of the packed gym at Mount Pleasant elementary school.
Most of the 30 delegations who’d signed up to speak to the Vancouver School Board trustees and senior administrators attended to voice their concerns about the proposed elimination of the itinerant elementary band and strings program that reaches 2,000 students at 52 elementary schools.
“Music is my life,” a Grade 4 student from Southlands elementary told the board after 9 p.m. “If you cut band it would break my heart, so please do the right thing and don’t cut band.”
Others spoke passionately about the importance of retaining an athletics coordinator, with one speaker noting being on sports team can give a student a sense of belonging and a reason to go to school.
The loss of a teacher for the City School alternative program for Grades 10 to 12 students was also a hot topic.
One student said she was bullied in elementary school, fell into a depression in secondary school and was on the verge of dropping out when she heard about and enrolled in City School. She said it was the best thing she’d ever done.
“These are the people that I trust in my life,” she said of the eight fellow students sitting alongside her.
Vietnamese-Canadian and South Asian-Canadian mothers shared how multicultural liaison workers had helped them and their children survive in Vancouver. VSB staff propose cutting a multicultural liaison worker for the South Asian community and another for the Vietnamese community. Fewer children from these backgrounds are registering through the District Resource Placement Centre.
A father also spoke about his son’s drug involvement and how the school board shouldn’t cut the equivalent of two full-time substance abuse prevention workers.
The VSB has to deliver a balanced budget to the province. The board faces an estimated shortfall of $12.34 million for 2014-2015. The board’s operating budget is $497.19 million, and staff expect to spend approximately 92 per cent of this amount on salaries and benefits.
Budget meetings and timelines:
- April 16: The public responds to the preliminary budget, 8 to 10 p.m., Room 114, school board office at 1580 West Broadway.
- April 17: The public responds to the preliminary budget, 5:30 to 9 p.m., Room 114 at the school board office.
- April 22: Revised budget goes before the VSB’s finance committee.
- April 28: The board receives input on the revised budget.
- April 30: The board finalizes the budget.