Calgary's public school board is cutting support staff, such as speech therapists and psychologists, to cover a multi-million dollar budget gap.

The Calgary Board of Education plans to eliminate 172 positions before the new school year in September, school principals and affected employees learned Tuesday.

"To balance the budget, we are redesigning central services to reduce the direct impact on schools and students," says Naomi Johnson, chief superintendent, in a statement.

"Sadly, we cannot absorb a $61.7 million shortfall without cutting positions. The best we could do today is care for the people involved by communicating the impact as soon as we have a plan."

Trustees usually formalize the budget for the upcoming school year in June.

"The trustees understand that plans are advancing to close the budget gap and that by necessity there will be fewer positions in the fall," said board chair Pat Cochrane in a statement. "The only way to avoid the consequences for students and employees is for the provincial government to restore funding for public education now."

Cochrane, speaking on CBC's The Homestretch, said the CBE is confused about how the province can release $42 million to the city while the school board is in a $61.7-million hole.

Teacher jobs on the line next

Cochrane said she feels sick about the cuts.

"Our budget is about 77 per cent people. So if need to carve a large chunk of money out of your budget, you're going to have fewer people working for you," said Cochrane.

"We're going to have to go to the schools and school-based personnel next, in the next decision-making phase."

The CBE said there could be some attrition and retirements, but newly hired teachers could be out of a job as well.

Learning leaders, who teach teachers, will likely be moved back into the classroom as part of the cuts.

Last June, the financial plan for 2010-11 included the loss of 192 full-time teaching and 85 support positions.