File photo by ADVOCATE staff Kathleen Finnigan, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools interim superintendent, said the division is looking at eliminating St. Gabriel Online School.

Red Deer schools bracing for reductions

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools propose changes to online learning

Red Deer educators are in the midst of making tough decisions to whittle down costs for the 2020-21 school year.

Red Deer Public Schools is taking $3 million from its reserves to address a $6-million funding deficit.

Bruce Buruma, community relations director for the school district, said a meeting was held Tuesday with principals, who will now develop a budget for their schools.

“Once they’ve done that, we will have a better idea of what the full implications are. Right now, it’s in the hands of principals,” Buruma said.

“We have a priority of making sure we’re putting as many dollars as possible into the classroom, but there are going to be reductions in the amount that schools get from previous years, given the budget realities with (Alberta Education’s) new funding model.”

The school district’s operating budget is about $122 million and school trustees will vote on the budget May 28.

Meanwhile, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools is looking at restructuring its online learning to help reduce costs.

“The new funding framework does not make distance learning a viable model for Red Deer Catholic, therefore, we are proposing an elimination of St. Gabriel Online School,” said interim superintendent Kathleen Finnigan in a statement.

It is proposed that online schooling instead be provided through the division’s high schools and St. John Paul II Outreach School.

Online summer school would be run this summer through St. Gabriel, and Catholic high schools in Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House could provide online learning starting in September.

Cuts may also be made to full day/every day kindergarten programs at three schools, some central office and administrative positions in schools, and the division’s professional development model.

Red Deer Catholic’s budget will be presented to trustees on May 26.

Board chair Anne Marie Watson said in addition to changing the funding framework, the province has also maintained funding at 2018-19 levels.

“For Red Deer Catholic, which is a growing school division, this means that each year we will have to educate more students with less funding.

“Despite that, the board is committed to keeping class sizes at similar levels and maintaining our strong support for student and staff mental well-being,” Watson said.


St. Gabriel Online School has 19 full-time students, 229 part-time students and 885 students who are primarily enrolled at one of Red Deer Catholic’s other schools, but are taking classes through St. Gabriel.

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