Friday, December 1, 2023

Lethbridge school districts scrambling after province makes temporary cuts

Local school districts are going to have to find ways to work with less after the province announced on the weekend it is temporarily cutting funding for K-12 education to reflect the cost of at-home learning by students during COVID-19.

The UCP government stated a few weeks ago school authorities in Alberta would receive their full allotment of funding for this year, however that is no longer the case.

The Lethbridge School Division developed its learning-at-home model with educational assistants (EA) helping to deliver this service for students. The local public division says it’s now concerned about how this government decision will alter plans that city schools had already out in place.

“Plans for the delivery of education at all three levels were constructed under the assumption schools would have a full complement of staff available to meet the needs of students at all levels,” says Dr. Cheryl Gilmore, Superintendent of Schools for Lethbridge School Division. “As a result of Saturday’s announcement from the government, some of those plans may have to be altered.”

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At this point, the Lethbridge School Division does not have exact figures in terms of the number of staff that will be impacted, as the Division is in the process of seeking clarification from the government.

The Holy Spirit Catholic Division is in the same boat. Officials say they’re working to determine a course of action that will ensure that students remain well-served during this change.

In a news release, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the funding will be restored when in-person classes resume.

“COVID-19 has changed both how we provide student learning, and the operational needs of the education system. I want to stress that this is a temporary arrangement as schools focus on at-home learning. I have full confidence the system will continue to be equipped to successfully deliver our education continuity plan,” says LaGrange.

The provincial government, in that news release, says these funding adjustments will not negatively impact Alberta’s education continuity plan. School authorities will receive the funding they require to continue providing at-home learning opportunities to their students, ensuring they do not fall behind.

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Any savings from these adjustments, says the province, will be re-allocated to support Alberta’s COVID-19 response.

The decision impacts bus drivers, educational assistants, and substitute teachers.

The opposition NDP is calling the move “pure cruelty”, saying at last count there were more than 16,000 educational assistants supporting students with complex needs across Alberta.

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