Red Deer Public Schools has no intention of asking parents to decide between cutting programs or increasing class sizes.
Recently, some schools operated by the Calgary Board of Education asked parents if they prefer fewer teachers or less programming, given the uncertainty surrounding the level of provincial funding.
Red Deer Public Schools said budgeting is a responsibility of school and district administration, and the school board.
School board chair Bev Manning said the district regularly consults with parents to find out what’s important to them, and concerns have included class sizes, reducing school fees and mental health wellness.
Surveying parents about cuts makes her think that education has become fairly political. While students are the top priority for all school boards, they may have different ways of going about it, said Manning.
“I think we need to keep our eyes on the students and understand we need to protect the students at all costs and give them the best possible education,” Manning said.
She said funding has become uncertain right now because school boards do not know if enrolment growth will be funded, or if there will be cutbacks.
“I know the new education minister would know what a cutback would mean to us, so I’m hopeful that won’t happen. But our plan is, and always has been, to budget as close to the line as humanly possible and keep the cuts out of the classroom in all possibilities,” Manning said.
Red Deer-North MLA Adriana LaGrange, a former board chair of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools, was named education minister in April.
Kurt Sacher, superintendent at Chinook’s Edge School Division, said jurisdictions were hoping that government would have already provided funding by now.
“I think government is waiting to hear from the blue ribbon panel that is underway looking at a number of things before they set any general direction,” Sacher said.
He said Chinook’s Edge is taking a conservative approach to spending in case some funding doesn’t come through.
“If they’re not, we have a small amount of reserves and we’re prepared to dip into them a little bit to get through the uncertainty we’re dealing with right now.”
He said Chinook’s Edge prefers to have conversations with parents to find out their priorities and discuss all the variables at play when it comes to a budget. And with small, rural schools, it’s easier to stay in touch with parents.
“It’s usually a complex, decision-making process. It would be unlikely we’d narrow the scope to one or two choices and survey parents on that. It’s typically never that simple for us,” Sacher said.
Paul Mason, superintendent at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, said in a statement that the school division works closely with school administrators to understand the needs of students on an annual basis.
“We are optimistic the provincial government will continue to fund increases in student enrolment and look to address other chronic education funding concerns. Our priority has been, and will always be, to make decisions based on having the least impact on classrooms, student learning, and maintaining staff,” Mason said.