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Bow Valley public schools getting more funding, teachers

Canadian Rockies Public Schools budget increases $207,982 from 2023-24 to allow addition of more support staff.

BOW VALLEY – Canadian Rockies Public Schools 2024-25 budget adds 12 new full-time staff, prioritizes small class sizes, wellness of students and staff, future-ready programming and outdoor learning experiences.

The $37.5 million budget allocates 70 per cent to classroom instruction, 15.5 per cent to operations and maintenance, four per cent to transportation, six per cent to governance and administration and 4.7 per cent to external services.

“Our steadfast commitment to educational excellence and student and staff well-being is reflected in the fact that we’ve directed more funds to instruction than in the previous school year,” said CRPS superintendent Chris MacPhee.

“This allows us to enhance small class sizes, bolster literacy and numeracy programs alongside our future-ready initiatives, and ensures we maintain well-being, support, and inclusive educational services unprecedented for a board our size.”

Increases to staffing support range from new teachers, educational assistants and bus drivers. To meet student learning needs, the school division has also hired a student learning services coordinator.

“You’ll hear me voice many times during the year, I’ve never been in a school system that has the type of resources Canadian Rockies has in our schools,” said MacPhee. “We know a lot has changed just in the last few years coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the literacy and numeracy pieces we have, some of the educational services agreements we have to support our Indigenous students; but I’m astounded each and every day I know the number of supports and what supports are there.”

Canadian Rockies employs divisional support staff ranging from an Indigenous services coordinator, psychologist, occupational therapist, speech language therapist and others, and school-based supports ranging from school and family wellness workers, school counsellors, wellness teachers and educational assistants. Including Outdoor Learning Centre and contracted support staff, the school division employs 111 full-time and part-time professionals, 46 of which are educational assistants. This excludes 153 certified teachers staffed throughout the division.

Enrolment projections, which also impact the school division’s revenue and expenses, are projected to decrease by 63 students to an overall count of 2,066 across all seven of its schools in the Bow Valley in 2024-25.

Notably, there is a significant increase in the number of students at Elizabeth Rummel School at 71 and a decrease of 98 students at Lawrence Grass Middle School. This is primarily due to Grade 4 instruction moving from one school to the other.

Capital investments planned for 2024-25 include modernization upgrades to Exshaw School, upgrades to Canmore Collegiate High School’s atrium and cosmetology room, the purchase of a new school bus, as well as an ongoing plan to add staff housing to Lawrence Grassi Middle School and the Outdoor Learning Centre, which is also funded for a new classroom build. Funding is expected to come primarily from reserves, which are forecasted to have a balance of $1.25 million in 2024-25.

The budget also has a small surplus of $15,575 and was approved by CRPS’ board of trustees at its May 22 meeting.

The budget was prepared based on funding from Alberta Education and assuming it remains consistent for the school division. Overall, projected operational funding from the province is $23.11 million for 2024-25, which is an increase of $207,982 from 2023-24. While schools in the Bow Valley will receive more funding, thirteen school boards across the province will see funding cuts, according to funding profiles released by the Alberta government earlier this month.

Canadian Rockies’ budget acknowledges one of its biggest challenges will be attracting and retaining existing and additional staff due to the high cost of living and low vacancy rates in the Bow Valley.

“This challenge may reduce our ability to hire and retain the teachers and support staff we have budgeted for,” the budget report states.

The school division has also implemented measures like waiving lunchroom supervision fees in 2023-24 to reduce budgetary costs. This model will carry over into next year.

The budget further notes collective agreements with the Alberta Teacher’s Association and the Canadian Union of Public Employees are set to expire in August 2024, which may impact spending if new collective agreements exceed the school division’s planned contingency.

The budget will be submitted to Alberta Education by May 31.

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.

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