Seven new education assistants/support workers have been hired for Kootenay Columbia elementary schools. (Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash)

Seven new education assistants/support workers have been hired for Kootenay Columbia elementary schools. (Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash)

‘Good news budget’ for School District 20

The 2018/2019 budget for the Kootenay Columbia district is set for adoption on Thursday

For the first time in a long time, support workers for Kootenay-Columbia’s youngest learners are back on the payroll.

“We were able to actually add staff back into the schools,” says Teri Ferworn, board chair for School District 20 (Kootenay-Columbia). “We are hiring seven new childcare worker education assistants/student support workers, so each of our elementary schools will be receiving additional staff to support children.”

She says the goal is to foster the grade schoolers with programs that focus on social and emotional health.

“Students need support, it’s a world filled with anxiety now,” Ferworn said. “Each school currently has assistants assigned in the pool, but they are for dedicated students who have designated special needs,” she added.

“But then we have a whole cohort of students who don’t have any special unique learning designations that bring money into the district, but they are still students who deserve services and who need extra support services. It’s the beginning of our mental wellness, and that’s what this is aimed at.”

The $46.8 million budget was read twice at the Monday board meeting in Trail, with a third reading and adoption slated for Thursday afternoon in the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre.

Of the 2018/2019 budget allocations, approximately $35 million is directed into instruction, $8 million is apportioned for operations and maintenance, $1.7 million toward transportation, and $1.8 million for district administration.

“The other thing that is really good news is that are hiring another maintenance staff person, a carpenter,” Ferworn explained. “That’s going to be really helpful when schools put in work orders to have work done and (in the past) we didn’t have the staff to go out and do it.”

At the end of the day, these positions were all cut from Kootenay-Columbia school budgets over the last 20 years, she said.

“Even at the beginning of my term – I am just coming to the end of my first term – we cut the first two years and last year we didn’t cut, but we didn’t add.

“This year we actually get to add, so it’s a good news budget for the first time in a long time.”

Ferworn mentioned another agenda item from Monday which also focused on the district’s youngest up-and-comers, which are Kindergarten students.

“Our numbers for Kindergarten registration appear to be up over last year,” she said.

“There is some anticipation they will even rise a bit more, and this year Fruitvale appears to be on the grow whereas the last few years it’s been Glenmerry.”

As of April 27, Kindergarten registration stood at 291, which is up 33 since the beginning of the 2017 school year.

Another timely action during the April 30 board meeting was to appoint Jeff Jones as Chief Elections Officer for the October 2018 elections.

School trustees act as a corporate board to establish policies which govern a school district. In School District 20, the board is comprised of nine elected citizens who represent Castlegar/Robson, Rossland, Trail, Warfield, Montrose and Fruitvale as well as regional district Areas A, B and part of Area J. Trustee elections are held every four years in conjunction with municipal elections.