Hamilton’s public school board says it will be cutting 100 staff jobs come September.
In an April 9 budget update, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board said cuts to permanent positions include elementary teachers, early childhood educators and staff affected by school closures.
An additional 34 elementary teachers in “system roles,” which include staff who support different initiatives, such as reading specialists and ESL consultants, have been declared “surplus.” The board says these teachers will have a permanent job in the fall, but will move into different roles.
“Lower staffing levels is the result of a significant decline in enrolment, attributed to COVID-19-related factors,” board chair Dawn Danko said in the update.
The board is projecting an enrolment decline of approximately 1,100 students and expects to receive funding information from the province by mid-April.
“We hope to reinstate as many of these positions as we can, if not for September, when we can rebound from this enrolment decline post-pandemic,” she said.
Enrolment is a “moving target,” Danko said. For the current school year, the board’s budget projections were “way off” due to an enrolment decrease of approximately 1,700 students — an estimated half of which are kids who would have entered kindergarten.
Other reasons include parents who chose to home-school their children and a decrease in newcomers to the city.
Danko said the board “protected” staff jobs last year by using contingency funding to offset funding lost due to decreased enrolment.
“We’re now seeing the impact of it in terms of staffing,” she said. “This is where we have to make those reductions.”
The reductions for the 2021-22 school year include approximately 64 full-time equivalent elementary teachers, as well as 25 early childhood educators, three principals, two vice-principals, three administrators and six custodial staff, representing approximately $7.5 million.
The board says teachers who are out of a permanent job may be placed in occasional positions.
“It came as a total surprise to our members,” said Jeff Sorensen, president of the Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers’ Local union. “The board didn’t handle the communication properly with letting the community know before they let their own employees know.”
Sorensen said the layoffs will affect “many more” than 64 teachers, since some are part-time.
The board is adding three secondary teacher positions for the 2021-22 school year. Educational assistant positions will not be affected.
Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator