No changes to funding cuts

Board to revisit community schools issue in October

An attempt by School District 20 trustee Mickey Kinakin to have $75,000 redirected back to community schools went unsupported by the board at Monday’s final district meeting in Trail.

The amount within the CommunityLINK community school funding was shifted to cover the continuing cost of two childcare workers, much to the dismay of school co-ordinators and Kinakin.

While the board projects a carry-over of $96,000 within the CommunityLINK funding next year, many trustees were loath to allocate money they weren’t sure would be available without knowing exactly how the next school year would shape up.

“I’m against the supposed surplus we might have and using it because we have no idea what might come up yet,” said trustee Elaine van der Meer.

“The $75,000 they have lost between the organizations is tough — and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way, it was a very hard decision that we made — but right now I would say we have to stay with it until we do find out if we don’t need the extra money.”

The board did agree to revisit the community school funding issue in October see if some carry-over could be redirected but that’s not reassurance enough for those involved.

Laurie Watson, co-ordinator at Robson community school, said she’s still trying to process events and plan how to make ends meet, including laying herself off over the summer to save her salary for use in September.

She pointed out that community schools were not even listed in the recommendations that senior management earmarked for possible funding if a carry-over was available, which she said made her believe there was no intention of giving the money back to the schools.

Calls made to the board were unreturned by press time Tuesday.

Questions about whether a portion of the carry-over money could be reallocated back to community schools were also raised by other trustees, who were told senior management cautioned against the early allocation of those funds due to unknowns the board may face in the fall, including high numbers of special needs students.

“I don’t say you can’t but I think you need to be cognizant that once the choice is made, that those dollars are allocated,” said Kim Williams, director of student support services.

Kinakin questioned the philosophy of the board through what he saw as a budgetary shift and said the principle of building citizens through community engagement had now been subsumed by economic realities.

“But that does not mean that we take something that has been a vital interconnect between us and the communities and the children who live in them and drop that down to transfer to something else,” he said Monday night, adding he had utmost respect for the board in trying to deal with the situation but stated that if this action went through, they would essentially be shutting down the community schools.

“We will have lost the community footprint upon this education system. I think for the amount of money that we’re going to save the amount that we’re going to lose out there in those communities … frankly to me is not worth it.”

Trustee Mark Wilson said at the end of the day the board had to deal with reality — $75,000 was a lot of money that would have had to be taken from nutrition programs, early intervention programs or academics if not from community schools.

“To me, I think our job is to deal with the schools and the children in our schools,” he said. “Historically it was fine when we had the money to fund these but I think our responsibilities lies in the schools where we have the FTEs (Full Time Equivalent), that’s our job as I see it.”

Discussion went around the table, re-hashing budgetary decisions made long ago, but by the end of the meeting things remained status quo.

When asked about the motion to look at the funds again in October, Kinakin was not optimistic.

“What’s going to change? There’s not going to be any money then, there’s not any money now, that’s why we’re in the mess we’re in,” he concluded. “By that time we’ll have had to make complete changes in community schools, programs will have to be altered, services will change and you got a mess on your hands.

“What it says in the mission statement about partnering with communities, take that out or put it in brackets because we no longer have an interest in that obviously. We’re going to hunker down into our own resources and I think education will be the loser personally.”