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School Notes: St. Albert Public teachers, support staff to lose jobs next year

Job cuts next fall for St. Albert Public, says superintendent.
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Teachers to lose jobs

St. Albert Public will have no choice but to lay off teachers next year due to provincial budget cuts, says the district’s superintendent.

St. Albert Public Schools superintendent Krimsen Sumners sent a letter to parents Wednesday about how the district was grappling with cuts brought in by the provincial budget.

“It’s a $2.9-million shortfall when all is said and done,” she said in an interview, and that will grow to $4.6 million next year once the province’s one-year transition funding of $1.7 million runs out.

The board will decide next Wednesday if it would bring in new bus fees to help cover its $1-million transportation deficit, but has yet to decide if it would follow Sturgeon Public’s lead with an instructional materials fee, Sumners said.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange recently announced boards could tap their maintenance funds to pay for staffing (with her approval), but Sumners said the board has yet to decide if it will go that route.

“We have some very old buildings that require a lot of support and a lot of maintenance,” she said, and this is money needed to fix broken boilers and burst pipes.

The district would use reserves to avoid layoffs this school year, but that’s not sustainable, Sumners said – schools will use something like 80 per cent of their reserves, and most of the board’s other reserves are needed for capital projects such as the new Paul Kane.

Sumners said personnel are the district’s main cost, and they could not absorb all of next year’s deficit through retirement and attrition.

“There will be staff layoffs,” she said, adding the layoffs will be split equitably between teachers and support staff.

“We’re going to see things like bigger class sizes. We’re not going to be able to offer the multitude of courses we do now.”

Sumners said any job cuts would be made next spring when the district sets staffing levels and would kick in for the fall. How many lose their jobs will depend on the province’s new yet-to-be-announced funding formula for schools.

“Right now, we’re playing a guessing game.”

Greater St. Albert Catholic board chair Joe Becigneul said his board faces a $1.1 million shortfall this winter despite raising bus fees and tapping reserves. Administration hopes to have a plan to address the funding gap ready for next week.

Hour of code

Hundreds of St. Albert students will take a megabyte out of the future this week as they sit down for an Hour of Code.

Students across the world will practice computer-programming skills this week as part of the Hour of Code, an international movement to celebrate computing science.

“We’re trying to get as many students worldwide coding as possible,” said Melissa Zawaduk, who runs the Coding Club at Elmer S. Gish and will be giving one-hour coding lessons to her school’s K-to-6 students there this week.

“There are so many academic skills that are met by doing coding with kids,” she said when asked about its appeal, including literacy, numeracy and computational thinking. Many of her students are already quite skilled at it, and it’s exciting to see them take an interest in it.

Parents will get to join in on the fun Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. during the school’s Family Coding Night, Zawaduk said.

“We’ll have VR goggles, Makey Makey, Ozobots, Dash robots, Micro Bits, Bee-Bots, all kinds of things for them to try out.”

And if you don’t know what any of those words mean, don’t worry – Zawaduk said student volunteers will be on hand to explain everything.

Visit hourofcode.com for details.


Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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