Kamloops school district ordered to cut $1.6 million; charging for bus rides an option

Schools in Vavenby and Blue River could be on the chopping block

Dale Bass – Kamloops This Week

Kamloops-Thompson school district Supt. Karl deBruijn knows decisions being debated now will make people angry.

Scenarios senior school-board administrators are analyzing include charging parents for students who ride the bus, adding pay parking at schools and, for four regional communities, shutting down their one-room schoolhouses.

It’s all in an effort to meet a Ministry of Education-mandated reduction of $786,000 in the school-district budget. Add in another $814,000 that needs to be found due to enrolment realities and the school district is looking for $1.6 million to save.

DeBruijn said the district has already cut its budget substantially through previous school closures, reconfigurations and other measures and is struggling to meet the government directive,

A lot of us aren’t sleeping at night,” he said.

Complicating the matter is the fact enrolment figures for kindergarten classes this fall fell short of what was anticipated when the district held its registration days earlier this month. Demographical studies anticipated 1,040 students would be registered, but the final tally had 130 fewer.

Because of the way school-board budgeting is done, however, submissions for funding have to be sent to the Ministry of Education before the board of education knows the final numbers.

It is what has led to the need to make up some funding received that doesn’t reflect the enrolment realities.

In total, it’s estimated school boards throughout the province have to find $35 million in enrolment-funding shortfalls, as well as another $29 million in administrative savings.

We have four one-room schools in the district and there are potential savings there,” deBruijn said

But, the reason those schools stay open is because they are the only schools in their communities.”

The four are in Westwold, Heffley Creek, Vavenby and Blue River.

We lose $500,000 to $700,000 a year running our buses,” deBruijn said. “Maybe we have to charge for riding the buses. We’re looking at ways to save money on bus supervision.”

Regardless of what decisions are made to cut that $1.6 million, deBruijn said there will be unhappy people.

He said the irony is school boards are being pushed by the provincial government to implement Victoria’s provincial-education plan, a document that promotes personalized learning and educating students on rapidly changing technology.

We’re also looking at our spending on technology, yet we’re told [by the government] we need to increase our use of it,” deBruijn said, adding the board of education is looking at professional development at all staffing levels and might have to cut out some of the non-contractual training it provides.

KTW contacted Education Minister Peter Fassbender’s office, asking why the cuts are being applied uniformly to all districts, rather than adjusted to account for those that, like SD73, have already done extensive budget cutting.

Fassbender declined to answer, referring KTW to an article he wrote for his government’s website on his belief school districts are “spending more money on administration than ever before.”