The fast-growing Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division plans to hire 23 new teachers for the 2014-15 school year.
School board trustees approved the division’s budget Tuesday, which sees increased expenditures for teacher salaries and projects a $690,220 deficit. Division enrolment has grown at annual rates of about five per cent in recent years, which has resulted in greater provincial funding and given the division an operating reserve balance of over $10 million.
“A $690,000 deficit this year, if that’s what we do every year we’ve got 15 years to be able to do that with our current surpluses,” said secretary-treasurer Rod Steeves.
The division had a surplus of $4.2 million last year and is expecting another, smaller surplus for the current fiscal year. The 2014-15 budget is based on a conservative projection of one per cent enrolment growth.
“Our schools aren’t lacking in anything. We’ve managed to run the business on the budgets we’ve had and in the future I expect that with new things coming on — inclusive education, curriculum redesign and those kinds of things — we’ll begin to draw down on those funds because those will be expensive for us as a school division,” said Steeves.
New provincial funding formulas for services for high-needs students do not benefit the local division, but the province has allocated temporary transition funding that is helping the jurisdiction to cope.
The division also intends to draw down its capital reserves marginally in 2014/15 in part to fund the construction of a field house facility in conjunction with its new high school build in northeast Red Deer. The division plans to partner with the Red Deer Royals on the initiative, and could make the space available to other community groups.
Superintendent Paul Mason said the division wants to use its ample reserve funds strategically to meet the needs of students.
The division projects to have at least 450 certified teaching staff serving over 7,700 students across its schools next year. A new elementary school set to open in September in Red Deer will be the 19th school operated by the division.
Also at the board’s Tuesday meeting:
— The board altered its policy around interviewing of students regarding in-school offences. Whereas teachers and principals previously had the “right and responsibility” to question students in private, the division’s new policy states that interviews should be held in a “quiet room” that protects the privacy of the student but allows for visibility and accessibility. The new policy states that “a third person acceptable to the student” should be present for the interview as well where possible. Mason said the policy was changed to ensure student and staff safety and came about after investigating the policies of other jurisdictions across North America.
— The board opted not to change its policy regarding how often O Canada is sung in division schools. A parent had approached the board last year, expressing concern that patriotism displays in school were not frequent enough. The board’s procedure leaves the frequency of anthem singing to each school principal’s discretion, though all schools must include it at least once a week during opening exercises. In response to the concern, division administration surveyed schools and found that the anthem is sung anywhere from once per week to five times per week.