Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools has announced a three-phase layoff process after the government announced a cut in education funding.
On Saturday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced a funding reduction to school jurisdictions by a total of $128 million, which will be redirected to support the province’s COVID-19 pandemic response.
Red Deer Catholic will experience temporary funding adjustments in busing, as well as a reduction in the base educational grant.
This week, the division was notified that funding has been reduced by $1.3 million for this school year.
“We are disappointed that the government has dictated that we lay off these valuable staff members, who are directly involved in supporting student learning, even in this new temporary model of online classrooms,” said board chair Anne Marie Watson.
“We worked hard to keep these staff employed as long as possible, but we really wish we had not been forced into taking this action.”
The division has formulated a three-phase layoff process:
- 60 school bus drivers laid off, effective March 31.
- 35 support staff to be laid off effective April 30.
- 250 support staff to be laid off effective June 1.
The division anticipates educational assistants and librarians will be temporarily laid off in the third phase, but said that specifics aren’t available at this time.
To ensure the largest number of staff are able to continue educating and supporting students, the division looked into other areas to meet the unexpected budget reduction. These measures included eliminating substitute teacher bookings and implementing a spending freeze on school budgets.
School superintendent Kathleen Finnigan said this was “disappointing news,” because Alberta Education had promised funding would continue unchanged for the rest of the school year.
“We developed an innovative approach to student learning involving all staff, such as educational assistants reading or supporting students with online assignments,” said Finnigan.
“This remains a very difficult process as we know that each person affected by temporary layoffs is a valued member of our school division. We know the level of caring and commitment they have for our students.”