People who work in New Brunswick's school system are bracing for upheaval after the Alward government announced plans Wednesday to cut the number of school districts in half.
Education Minister Jody Carr said reducing the number of school districts to seven from 14 is expected to save $5 million annually.
The restructuring will mean up to 100 fewer employees working at district offices across the province, effective July 1.
Heather Smith, president of the New Brunswick Teachers' Association, is hoping the changes won't have a major impact on teachers.
The restructuring of districts is more of an administrative change than one that directly affects classrooms, she said.
'Teachers don't know what's ahead. As soon as there's a change in the system, you wonder what's the change coming for me?' —Heather Smith, New Brunswick Teachers' Association
Still, teachers are uneasy about what may be coming down the road, said Smith.
"Teachers don't know what's ahead. As soon as there's a change in the system, you wonder what's the change coming for me? Is this it? Are there more to come? What's to come? How's it going to impact me individually and teachers as a group?"
The association is pleased that money saved by cutting the number of districts will be put back into the classrooms, Smith added.
Jeanne Wood, the principal at Barkers Point School, agrees. She isn't happy about the job losses, but still believes the overhaul is good news
"We look at, if the $5 million is saved and put back into the school, that's a positive thing," said Wood.
Fredericton staff 'stoic'
Fredericton District superintendent Dianne Wilkins said the mood was "subdued" when she delivered the news to staff.
"They were very stoic," she said. "We're hoping, at the end of the day, that everyone in every situation will be resolved. But that's yet to be seen," said Wilkins, who doesn't know if she will maintain her position.
A transition team including members from the department, districts and education councils will be working to finalize what positions will be cut, the minister has said.
The Department of Education plans to create four anglophone districts and three francophone districts. It's unclear where the districts will be housed.
The education minister said New Brunswick has twice as many school districts as Nova Scotia and three times as many as Newfoundland and Labrador.
Meanwhile, the overall number of students has dropped by 15 per cent in the last 10 years and the cost of operating schools has increased by 37 per cent, Carr said.
By 2015, the number of students is expected to drop by five per cent and the cost of operating schools is expected to increase by 14 per cent, he said.
The district changes will make them representative of declining student populations and put New Brunswick more in line with other education systems in Atlantic Canada, Carr said.