A pair of Central Alberta school boards are set for next year after approving their budgets.
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools will focus on maintaining the level of funding in classrooms despite operating at a $1.7-million deficit in the 2018-19 school year.
The RDCRS board of trustees approved a $113-million budget at its meeting Tuesday.
Due to the deficit, the division will dip into its reserves to maintain the same level of school services and resources for students.
“We do recognize there are significant student needs that need to address and fortunately we have reserves to use to address those needs,” said Anne Marie Watson, RDCRS board chair.
“If we didn’t have reserves to draw from we would have to make cuts to services for students and of course we don’t want to do that,” she said.
Watson said the division is facing space limitations in schools as enrolment continues to increase.
“We’re already facing space crunches,” she said. “All of our middle schools in Red Deer are full. We still have enrolment growth .. and it just means we’ll have larger class sizes or will have to be more creative with space. But we’ve pretty much run out of options for our middle schools in Red Deer.”
Watson said she’s hopeful the government will recognize the issue and provide funding for another Red Deer middle school.
“We met with the minister of education last week and he took that information well and is aware … we’re one of the fastest growing (divisions) in the province,” she said.
The Classroom Improvement Funding will give the division the opportunity to have additional staff resources in schools.
The Chinook’s Edge School Division board of education approved a $129-million budget for next year at its meeting Wednesday. The division will operate at a deficit of roughly $900,000.
Chinook’s Edge has schools in several communities, including Olds, Penhold, Innisfail and Sylvan Lake.
Kurt Sacher, Chinook’s Edge superintendent, said the division continues to struggle with its underfunded rural transportation system.
“We’ve advocated for that on numerous occasions with the provincial government,” Sacher said. “That department alone is running at a deficit of over $900,000, which just happens to be in line with the deficit we’re operating on going into next year.”
Sacher said some young students have to ride a bus more than an hour each way to school – the division has already teamed up with RDCRS in a joint busing venture to minimize costs, he added.
“We think we’re at the point where the government needs to help out.
“Unfortunately we’ve had to subsidize it with … dollars we would much rather use elsewhere than to deal with an underfunded transportation department,” he said.
There is good news from the budget approval as well, said Sacher.
“We’re able to continue to support class sizes as reasonably as possible … and I’m definitely appreciative we didn’t have to make any significant cuts to staffing across the jurisdiction,” he said.