Board approves use of in-year savings to offset reduced provincial funding for this school year
Faced with a $2.8-million cut in funding from the province for the cleaning of schools, the Peel District School Board will find in-year savings in other areas to prevent the need for music and French classroom closures in elementary schools this year. The pause will provide time for the board to explore options to the closures and to mitigate the impact of the estimated further $2 million in facility operations cuts for the 2017-18 school year.
In an Extraordinary Meeting of the Board on Sept. 21, 2016, trustees directed administration to use in-year savings to provide cleaning services in a maximum of two non-funded permanent classrooms or three in very exceptional circumstances at schools which are below Ministry Rated Capacity. If not enough in-year savings are found, administration can use funds from the uncommitted Working Fund Reserve to make up the balance.
Notes Janet McDougald, chair of the Peel board, "We asked administration to review the possibility of finding a way to keep the rooms open while we explore a permanent solution. Offsetting a portion of the funding reduction provides needed breathing space while that process happens this year. That is what is best for our students."
"I want to be clear—the loss of ministry 'top up' funding was highlighted in the 2015 and 2016 budget processes. So, the review by administration of classroom space, and the potential closure of classrooms, flowed directly from the budget approved by this board. But we have, in our roles as trustees, heard the voices of our staff on the impact and the short timeline. We understand the concerns, as does administration, and so we found a solution together so we can pause the closure—not stop them—while we explore alternatives for next school year."
Says Tony Pontes, director of education, "I know how hard this process has been for our principals, vice-principals and school staff. Closing the music and French rooms was an action driven directly by a significant cut in provincial funding—not by our choice, not by what we want to do. Working with the board to find a temporary solution, and pausing the closure of elementary music and French rooms this year will come as a great relief to our schools. However, I want to stress that this is a one-year pause. Unless a permanent solution is found, we may have to close the classrooms next year."
Adds Chair McDougald, "The trustees will ask the province to re-visit the definition of a 'classroom' and therefore revisit the drastic reductions to our cleaning budget. Trustees will work with our unions and federations to help the province understand the vibrant programming delivered by our music and French teachers. Based on that work, we will need, as a board, to determine the impact as we go through the budget process this year for the 2017-18 school year."
Janet McDougald, Chair, Peel District School Board,
Brian Woodland, Director of Communications and Community Relations, 905-890-1010 ext. 2812,