Red Deer Public School administrators aren’t panicking over possible education budget cuts this fall, preferring to take a wait-and-see approach.
“There’s no point in being alarmist, for no reason,” said superintendent Stu Henry, whose district is not following the example of Calgary Public School officials, who are reducing classroom funds by $22 million in anticipation of receiving less provincial funding.
Henry said he and his administration recently sat down with Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and got no sense there would be a “doom and gloom” situation for educators this fall.
“We’re choosing to remain optimistic… (to) believe no drastic measures will be needed,” he added.
The Red Deer Public School District is expecting a zero per cent budget increase. But Henry believes more per-pupil funding should accompany a forecast enrolment boost of about 150 students.
He said one educational cut that is expected is the elimination of a grant that had been received by school districts for the past few years under the former New Democrat government.
With no more money coming from the classroom improvement fund, Henry said Red Deer Public Schools will not be able to renew the contracts of nine teachers and nine education assistants who had been primarily helping teach English-as-a-second-language students.
Henry said some students from other countries can initially struggle upon entering Alberta’s school system, especially if they are older, without having had much previous formal education.
Having these extra teachers and education assistants meant ESL students could receive more individual attention when pulled out of the classroom for additional instruction.
But Henry doesn’t believe the loss of the grant will create a big impact, because the district was able to give ESL students some extra lessons before the classroom improvement fund was established.
He hopes to be able to hire some of the nine teachers who are losing their contracts to replace retiring teachers.
An official from Red Deer Catholic Regional School District could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.