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School libraries to close one day a week

Public school libraries will only be open to students four days a week for the 2011/12 school year as a result of cuts to funding. The change to library schedules is the result of a $1.

Public school libraries will only be open to students four days a week for the 2011/12 school year as a result of cuts to funding.

The change to library schedules is the result of a $1.6 million shortfall in the budget for Canadian Rockies Public Schools for the upcoming school year.

At the same time as cuts are being implemented, including the elimination of 16 teacher positions and seven custodial staff jobs, the school board is hoping the minister of education can help change the situation.

CRPS board chair Kim Bater said a meeting is scheduled with Minister Dave Hancock and Banff-Cochrane MLA Janis Tarchuk in June and he will advocate $1 million in additional funding be put into education for the Bow Valley.

“The meeting will highlight the budget challenges and we will request specific funding for our need areas,” Bater said. “We want money put back in the system to function at a level that we were functioning at last year.”

Superintendant Brian Callaghan said libraries in all public schools will be closed on Fridays, which is not as bad as it sounds.

With 20 Fridays out of the school year already half days because of professional development for teachers, Callaghan said cutting library services on the last day of the week results in the shortest number of hours cut.

He said the change has reduced librarians by one full-time employee, however, “everybody is still working, but it is a four-day week”.

The one day a week library closures, cuts to teaching positions, support staff, increased class sizes and bus fees come as a result of a tough balanced budget for public education in the valley for the 2011/12 school year.

While the province increased education funding by 4.54 per cent to cover teachers’ negotiated salary increases, at the same time it cut a number of funding programs, resulting in a net loss of funding.

In addition to the net cut to funding by the province, CRPS ran a deficit during this school year of $450,000 and was surprised to also be in a deficit position of $591,000 for the 2009/2010 school year.

Bater said this year’s deficit was approved by the board after Hancock told school boards across the province to use reserves to prevent cutting teaching positions.

He said he is asking the provincial government to do the same thing.

“Some (school boards) have reserves; we don’t because we followed exactly what the minister asked us to do which was to use our reserves to prevent staff cuts,” he said. “If the minister says consistently he wants school boards to spend reserves to prevent layoffs, he should follow his own advice.”

The provincial budget was set with oil at $86 a barrel and Bater pointed out it has been consistently over $100, meaning Alberta’s coffers are benefiting proportionately for every dollar over the budgeted amount.

That and the $6 billion in the sustainability fund, Bater said, means there is no reason why provincial public school boards should see the level of cuts they have.

In addition to the board formally asking the minister to increase funding, parents and school councils have begun a letter writing campaign.

In a hope to get as many voices heard by the provincial government, letter writing sessions have been organized at local schools.

Bater also encouraged parents to engage in dialogue with the candidates for leadership of the Alberta Conservative Party through their various blogs and twitter accounts.

He said one of those candidates will likely be the next minister of education and engaging them now on the topic of public education is worthwhile.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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