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School district faces more budgetary woes

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Board considers removing 20 days from school calendar to cut costs

There simply isn’t anything left to cut.

But somehow the Howe Sound School Board has to come up with $758,000 to balance its budget by the end of the month.

"It’s pretty grim," said superintendent Dr. Linda Rossler.

Many factors have contributed to the shortfall. They include the freeze on education spending by the provincial government, the teachers salary increase, an increase in salaries for administration staff, rising costs of supplies and infrastructure, lower student enrolment than predicted by the Education Ministry and the opening of Spring Creek elementary school.

An obvious way to get more money is to have larger classes.

But the board has committed to keeping class size at 30 students in intermediate and secondary levels, following concern voiced by parents.

Myrtle Philip had more classes with over 30 students this year than any other school in the district.

However when pressed Rossler said even this commitment might have to be re-visited.

"… We are not doing that unless we absolutely have to," she said.

Other options to find the money are being considered, though none have been decided on.

The board considered this week cutting 20 days from the school year. No decision had been made by press time at their Wednesday night meeting.

Savings would come from reduced bussing costs, and lower maintenance and other costs.

"We have to consider everything at this point," said Rossler.

The idea was also raised at the Myrtle Philip Parent Advisory Council meeting Tuesday night.

While parents understand the board is between a rock and a hard place financially many felt cutting back on school days was downloading the burden to families, many of whom would have to pay for childcare on the days their kids were out of school.

Others questioned how it would affect their children’s education.

Myrtle Philip Principal Ron Albertin, who sits on a committee looking at the option, said students would finish school 25 minutes later under the revised school calendar (Spring Creek would be out at 2:55 p.m. and Myrtle Philip would get out at 3:10 p.m.).

The lunch hour would also be cut back to get a total of 34 minutes extra a day to make up for the lost days.

Losing lunchtime was a concern to some parents as it meant it was unlikely there would be activities during that break because there would not be enough time.

And the later end-of-day time would also present a challenge to those parents who pick up kids from the high school at 2:50 p.m.

However Trustee Don Brett pointed to some positive outcomes in the Boundary School District, which this year reduced its school week.

"They have discovered that it is somehow a magical solution to a number of problems," he told parents at the meeting.

Much of the positive outcome, Brett said later, may come from the increased focus on education by the whole community as moving to a four-day school week really galvanized Boundary.

Because of the tight deadlines the board, if it decides to go ahead with the idea, may not be able to take it to the community as fully as it would have liked.

But the school district Web site (www.sd48.bc.ca) carries information about the idea, research on the findings of other school districts, and a secure place for parents to comment on the plan.

The board must make a final decision by May 28, leaving the community about a month to comment to their principals and other school officials on the idea.

The next Myrtle Philip PAC meeting will be May 20 at the school.

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