Declining enrolment leading to reductions in secondary schools
NORTHPORT – The Chignecto-Central Regional School Board is doing something it hasn’t been able to do in several years – hire more teachers.
“There is good news in this budget. This budget is somewhat different then what we have seen in the past four years,” said board chairwoman Trudy Thompson. “For the first time in a long time, we are in the position to hire teachers. That is good news.”
We have extra support for reading and literacy and we have the caps on class sizes and we’re moving forward it
The board will replace 50 teachers due to retirements and hire new teachers to fill 33.2 full-time equivalent positions for the 2014-2015 school year. The 33.2 FTE positions are a result of the Primary to Grade 2 class cap and other targeted initiatives, including five guidance counsellors at the elementary level, three new mathematics mentors and implementation of the Early Literacy Framework.
Targeted funding was also provided for student support grants.
“A lot of those targeted initiatives that were funded are priorities of this board so it matches up,” board superintendent Gary Clarke said. “Class size, early literacy and math are priorities of this board and putting more teachers in the classroom to facilitate those subjects is good for us.”
In total, the board’s profile sheet from the province provides $5.7 million in new funding. Of that money, $3 million will be used directly to pay for targeted initiatives.
The elected board sites providing adequate supports, programs and resources for students with special needs as an ongoing challenge. It is the hope of the board members that future provincial funding will be directed to this area.
Declining enrolment also remains a challenge for all school boards across Nova Scotia. For Chignecto-Central, a decline in the funded enrolment of 481 students for the 2014-2015 school year has led to a reduction of 19 full-time equivalent teaching positions, mostly at the secondary level.
“The challenge with declining enrolment is that while the number of students decrease, the costs to educate them remain the same,” said vice-chairman Keith MacKenzie. “A school bus with 65 students or 25 students still costs nearly the same to operate and maintain. Those real costs remain and managing them is still a real challenge.”
Clarke said the board is always being forced to take teachers out of the system because of declining enrolment. He said the average is a loss of 400 to 425 students, so the teachers being added is a net increase after declining enrolment is figured in.