Kiwassa Youth Program saved from VSB cuts

Adult Education students in the Kiwassa Youth Program received good news Tuesday night when the Vancouver School Board released its revised budget for 2015-2016.

As the result of feedback received last week, the board proposes discontinuing the youth program at South Hill on Fraser Street at East 45th Avenue, but retaining the youth program at Kiwassa, which runs near the PNE grounds. The VSB plans to shrink its youth programs from four to two locations, also eliminating the youth program at Collingwood Neighbourhood House.

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“Kiwassa is a well-supported program at the moment with a fairly consistent enrolment and it’s in an area without a lot of other service of this sort,” said associate superintendent Maureen Ciarniello.

She said well under 100 students are enrolled across four youth program locations and are only on-site part of the day, so they could be accommodated at two sites.

Classes would need to consist of 32 students for revenue to meet expenditures and class sizes currently average 20 students or fewer. Ciarniello said the proposed closures and changes to the Adult Education program are projected to increase class sizes to 29.

Ciarniello noted youth can enroll in self-paced studies in the general Adult Education program. She said the VSB works to provide students aged 19 and younger with a variety of educational options.

“We have room in our alternative programs and also have some semestered options,” Ciarniello said.

The VSB also heard a need to maintain more sites with self-paced learning centre hours, so instead of only offering self-paced programs at Gathering Place downtown as proposed in its preliminary budget, the board proposes continuing self-paced programs at the Main Street at Gladstone secondary and the South Hill Centres on alternate days, as well as every day at Gathering Place.

The revised budget projects the same cost savings for Adult Education as the preliminary budget, an estimated $526,000 in 2015-2016, and $1.59 million per year thereafter.

Savings are to be found in setting class size minimums at 26, designating Gathering Place as a self-paced learning centre only, closing the Hastings and Downtown Eastside Centres, discontinuing the Collingwood Youth Program and discontinuing a literacy outreach program that operates at seven elementary schools.

With these changes, the board anticipates it could sustain Adult Education, which falls outside of the district’s core mandate of educating students in kindergarten to Grade 12. The program’s deficit was $2.92 million in 2013-2014. With these changes, the VSB believes it could eliminate this deficit within two years. 

Most of the other savings proposed in the preliminary budget remain unchanged.

The VSB faces a budget shortfall of $8.52 million for 2015-2015 and expects another multi-million dollar shortfall for 2016-2017.

The public can provide input on the revised budget April 27, starting at 7 p.m. at 1580 West Broadway. The board will approve a provisional budget April 30.

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