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‘Less-than-ideal’: $3.2M enrollment-fund reduction could soon be a reality for Prince George school district

Full-time students down compared to 2019-20, also impacting staff placements
School District 57 (SD57) in Prince George and COVID-19. (via Stock/Hanna Petersen, PrinceGeorgeMatters)

Unusual circumstances have led to some tough decisions.

That's according to School District 57 (SD57) Superintendent Anita Richardson as it's expecting, even with financial help from B.C., an enrollment funding shortfall of $3.2 million from the Education Ministry thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a news release this morning (Sept. 25), Prince George’s school district says its short of 425 full-time K-12 students for 2020-21 with the virus causing parents to switch their kids to online learning or homeschooling instead of in-class.

“This year is an unusual year because families have had to make tough decisions about whether they return their children to school based on a variety of factors,” said Richardson about the ‘significant’ decline that could continue into next week, which could see SD57 going into funding protection.

“We are making the best decisions we can in a less-than-ideal situation, and this is not the way we want to start any school year.”

SD57’s Distributed Learning program is on the upswing with 146 more students compared to last year., which will add about $900,000 in enrollment funding.

However, Richardson says this means a $200,000 shortage as opposed to what would normally be generated if those students were in their regular classrooms.

The budget challenge is also leaving an impact on teachers with some needing to adapt to other roles by way of the shortage.

“The district is adding staffing in areas such as Distributed Learning, transitional support and home support to address some of the increased challenges in those areas,” Richardson explains. 

“Teachers on limited duration contracts may be given the opportunity to become TTOCs (teachers teaching on call) until other positions become available through circumstances such as maternity leave.”

She says school-based decisions, however, are not finalized until the full student enrollment is tallied, believing there may still be movement between in-class and online learning.

“While there may be some disruption for students in schools whose classes are reorganized to recognize this budget challenge, we are doing our best to ensure we have appropriate supports in place for both students and staff,” Richardson added. 

“We know that teachers and staff in our schools have worked very hard to build relationships and rapport with all of our students and that all staff will continue to do that work within their new class configurations.

SD57 was announced to be on the receiving end of $2.4 million in federal funding prior to the start of the school year to help purchase much-needed materials and supports as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The amount for each school is to be determined as necessary, with additional financial aid from the B.C. government.