Budget stability pleases school division

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Okotoks’ Catholic school division officials say they will use temporary classroom funding from the Province to balance budget shortfalls and increase staffing in the upcoming school year.

Classroom Initiative Funding (CIF) provided this year by the provincial government allows Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools to add teachers and support staff, said superintendent Scott Morrison.

CTR Catholic is projected to receive $106 million in provincial funding. Provincial funding is based on enrolment and therefore funding amounts can change in the fall when student numbers are solidified.

The division has been given an additional $1.262 million in CIF funding. The temporary funding was offered up during teachers’ contract negotiations.

It must go to classroom initiatives and CIF spending has to be approved by the Province.

Morrison said $600,000 in spending cuts were made across the division office during the spring budgeting process in professional development spending and some support staff were laid off or not replaced to make up for shortfalls.

However, many of the cuts made in the regular budget were reinstated through Classroom Initiative Funding, Morrison said.

On Friday a committee of four CTR Catholic teachers and four administrative staff allocated half of the CIF funds across the division, which has 18 schools from Canmore to Oyen.

Mike Fleck is a Brooks vice-principal who sat on the committee that appointed the CIF funding.

Fleck said he liked that teachers worked with the school division to come up with the best way to use the CIF funding to improve classroom conditions.

“It was very nice to be able to restore some of those positions,” Fleck said.

Morrison said a half-time Kindergarten teacher was hired at Okotoks’ Good Shepherd School and an Okotoks education assistant was hired using CIF funding.

Good Shepherd also had another half-time kindergarten teacher hired during the regular budget process.

The elementary school in the Tower Hill area continues to be over 100 per cent capacity, despite the opening of St. Francis of Assisi Academy last year, Morrison said.

Morrison said another round of hiring will take place in August.

About $600,000 of the division’s CIF spending will be allocated to hire teachers and support staff. Another $412,000 will be spent on classroom improvement supplies, $229,000 will be spent on professional development and $20,000 will be available for teachers to apply for to use for special learning projects.

The CIF committee continues to look at emergent requests from schools where classroom size and high populations are a concern when allocating the rest of the CIF funding, Morrison said.

The money for classroom improvements will go to items like books for classroom libraries and technology like tablets and chrome books, Morrison said.

“All classrooms have basic libraries and teachers can enhance them,” he said.

“Rather than having to run to the public library or buy books out of pocket, which many do, they will be able to purchase books with this funding. I see a lot of the money going to that.”

The professional development funds will be used to pay teachers to attend workshops in the summer, Morrison said. He said they will focus on numeracy, literacy, English Language Learning and faith.

The Foothills School Division (FSD) has a committee looking at how to allocate their $970,000 in CIF funding. FSD assistant superintendent of corporate services, Drew Chipman, said they are working at having a plan in place in the fall when school resumes.

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