Wage freeze idea panned

The possibility that a 4.3 per cent pay increase for teachers will be eliminated in return for less time in the classroom and less time on out-of-classroom duties is disturbing to the Red Deer Public School District board.

The possibility that a 4.3 per cent pay increase for teachers will be eliminated in return for less time in the classroom and less time on out-of-classroom duties is disturbing to the Red Deer Public School District board.

The province, Alberta Teachers’ Association and Alberta School Boards Association have entered discussions because the government says its fiscal resources are strained.

Teachers have a five-year contract. Talks have focused on eliminating the pay increase that teachers would receive in September, the last year of their contract, in exchange for benefits.

“For Red Deer Public, what will happen is they will look at implementing certain working conditions into the collective agreement that will result, in my opinion, in less teacher face time with students, which is wrong,” said public board chair Lawrence Lee.

The province has been holding firm to its plan not to increase funding, he said.

“Four point three per cent will either come out of programming or it will come out of teachers’ wages.”

Trustee Dianne Macaulay said students are the ones who stand to lose the most.

“The Alberta School Board Association and the ATA is thinking about staff and students. The government is thinking of money and elections,” Macaulay said.

Trustee Bill Stuebing said if successful in its bid, the province will certainly go ahead with a zero budget increase for school jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, Red Deer Public continues to face serious space issues in schools in south Red Deer.

“I went on a tour with the principal of (Ecole Mountview Elementary) the other day and was literally looking at closets to refurbish to turn into little learning spaces so we would have places to put children, talking about putting walls in the library and taking all the books out and turning them into classrooms,” said superintendent Piet Langstraat.

Mattie McCullough Elementary School is at 105 per cent occupancy even though Alberta Education considers a school full at 85 per cent, Langstraat said.

“Alberta Infrastructure has basically said building for schools is frozen so just try to figure it out. It’s getting past the point of figuring it out. It’s an urgent need for us,” Langstraat said.

A school in Aspen Ridge has been at the top of the district’s facility plans for a few years. Other projects on hold by the province are a new school in Timberstone, and taking over River Glen School from the Chinook’s Edge School Division to house the Gateway Christian School program.

Lee said the space crunch is a prime example of the disconnect between the province and the school district, and the district’s efforts to address local priorities.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com