Regina Catholic Schools eliminating a dozen teaching positions to deal with budget shortfall

·4 min read
The Regina Catholic Schools board is cutting staff positions due to declining enrolment.  (Gagliardi Photography/Shutterstock - image credit)
The Regina Catholic Schools board is cutting staff positions due to declining enrolment. (Gagliardi Photography/Shutterstock - image credit)

Regina Catholic Schools is the latest Saskatchewan school division announcing staff cuts.

It's also adding a fee for students who need lunchtime supervision.

The school division passed its budget last night, and it includes cutting seven online teacher positions and 3.5 teacher positions moving into the fall 2022 session.

Twylla West, communications and media co-ordinator for Regina Catholic Schools, said those staff are either moving somewhere else (as is the case for most of the online teachers) or are retiring.

"No one is losing a job," she said.

As well 2.5 teacher-librarian positions are being transitioned into different positions at a lower cost.

The school division says the decision was made in part due to declining enrolment and its inability to financially support the same compliment of staff.

The division also said a budget increase of one per cent from the province doesn't cover its shortfall. It says the increase translates to $1.1 million, leaving a shortfall of $3.2 million.

To make up for it, the division has had to look elsewhere.

West said the division has reduced community council grants and reduced the budget for minor renovations, among other things.

"It was another year of some subtraction and we're doing the best we can with what we have, and working really hard to keep all the funds that we can in the classroom," she said.

Lunchtime fees

Regina's Catholic schools are also following the lead of other school districts in adding new fees for lunchtime supervision.

In early June school trustees approved annual fees of $70 for elementary students who go every day and $35 for kindergarten students who are part-time.

Fees for families who have more than two students in the division will be capped at $140.

Seven schools that have a 30-minute lunch break — Holy Rosary, Sacred Heart, St. Augustine, St. Francis, St. Michael, St. Maria Faustina and St. Luke — will be exempt.

In a notice to parents the school division said exceptions will be made for families unable to pay the new fees, which are expected to generate about $300,000 to help cover the cost of supervision.

A report to the board says the Catholic system spent more than $300,000 on lunch costs in the 2020-21 school year.

Saskatoon Public Schools made a similar decision with a $100-per-child lunchtime supervision fee for students who don't go home during the lunch hour. The fee will be capped at $200 for families with more than two children in the school system.

The Regina Public School Division has been charging fees for six years.

It said the Canada Revenue Agency has confirmed the lunchtime fees can be claimed as a child-care expense.

Province starving school boards of funding: NDP

Matt Love, the Opposition NDP's education critic, said Premier Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party government need to take responsibility for the staffing cuts and introduction of lunchroom fees.

Both are a result of budget cuts, Love said.

"Scott Moe has the audacity to jet-set to New York during an affordability crisis and then stand in an airport blaming school boards for not balancing their books," he said, referring to the premier's recent trade mission to the U.S.

"[He] is starving our school boards of funding and then turning around and scolding them for being broke."

While funding is increasing, it's not increasing at the rising rate of inflation, Love said.

Adam Hunter/CBC
Adam Hunter/CBC

Earlier this month, Moe said in general, school division budget reserves have been growing over the past three or four years.

Love said he's spoken with school boards who have said that in fact, reserves are shrinking and the divisions can't cover growing costs.

Love wants the provincial government to provide an emergency fund of $50 million to school divisions, and wants Moe to retract his comments.

Some members of the Saskatchewan Party previously served on school boards, which Love said means they "used to stand up for students before they were elected under the [Saskatchewan] Party banner.… They know the situation."

In response, the Saskatchewan government said in an email that its understanding is that "in light of declining enrolment … Regina Catholic is looking to reduce additional staff they had during the pandemic to support temporary distance learning measures."

"It is also our understanding that they still have more staff than pre-pandemic levels, despite enrolment declining."

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