CANMORE – Heading into the next school year, the Canadian Rockies Public Schools (CRPS) division is expecting to see some new buses and an expansion of various programs at its schools.
The budget projects $35.92 million in revenue and $35.89 million in expenditures.
“We have a small balanced budget, with a surplus of about $29,000,” said Mike Guindon, secretary-treasurer for CRPS.
The budget will direct 68 per cent of its revenue toward instruction, 14 per cent to operations and maintenance, four per cent to student transportation and six per cent to governance and administration.
“Overall, our division’s picture for the 2023-24 school year is bright,” said Chris MacPhee, superintendent of CRPS. “We are delighted to see a significant increase in provincial education funding.”
The budget will support a wellness team of four counsellors, a school social worker, a divisional psychologist, a school and family wellness worker, a family liaison worker and five Right from the Start success coaches to help students. Seven literacy and numeracy specialists will also be joined by an occupational therapist, speech and language pathologist, school psychologist, educational psychologist, nine learning support teachers and four success teachers.
“We are looking at maintaining the social and emotional well-being of our students and staff, and attracting qualified certified and non-certified staff,” Guindon said.
There will be a 7.5 per cent increase in full-time equivalent educational assistants to have 42 employed by the division. There will also be a 17.8 per cent increase of full-time equivalent teaching staff and 16.7 per cent increase of full-time equivalent support staff hired for the school year.
Enrolment is projected to be slightly down in the division by about 40 students, according to the budget submitted to the province. The largest decrease is expected at Canmore Collegiate High School (CCHS), with a loss of 72 students, while Elizabeth Rummel School is projected to lose 21 students.
Banff Elementary School, Banff Community High School and Lawrence Grassi Middle School are the only schools expected to see an enrolment increase of 18, seven and six respectively.
However, the school board projected enrolment for Stoney Nakoda students conservatively, where funding comes from the federal government.
“In CCHS, we had a substantial increase in the current year and we are unsure if that will remain in the following year,” Guindon said. “We are being conservative as this was an increase in one single year. We anticipate small class sizes to be reflected with the projected enrolment and the staffing adjustments.”
It is expected class sizes will average 19 students for Kindergarten to Grade 6, 21 students for Grades 7 to 9, and 20 students for Grades 10 to 12.
The enrolment in the international program is expected to remain at the same level as the 2022-23 school year.
“In all areas of operation, our families will see enhanced service levels, particularly in learning,” said MacPhee.
CRPS will be spending $1.5 million on transportation for the 2023-24 school year. This will include resuming charter services, upgrading route management software and purchasing new buses that will be part of the division’s fleet for next year.
The provincial government recently lowered student walking distances by one and two kilometres for students in various grade levels. As a result, CRPS expects to see an additional 25 families in Canmore and 45 families in Banff qualify for transportation services in 2023-24.
“We are looking at acquiring three buses to accommodate the walking distances,” Guindon said.
The division will also be enhancing programming at its schools, re-configuring classrooms, and hiring a chef to help in the culinary kitchen. Lunchroom supervision fees will also be eliminated for the 2023-24 school year. These fees cost parents between $93 and $166.
The amount of renewable energy harvested by the division will also be increasing with this budget. Solar panels are now being added to the board office and maintenance shop. This will result in six of eight facilities for CPRS using solar panels on their roofs.
“In the plant and operations department, we are looking at revitalizing and expanding our current facilities to address programming needs as they evolve,” Guindon said.
Health and wellness, student supports and engaged learning comprise $24.5 million of the budget’s expenses.
“We are reconfiguring classrooms for fashion design, and the outdoor experiential learning aspect,” Guindon said. “The Indigenous services coordinator, we will have entered into that with our First Nations partners.”