Education Minister Jody Carr is proposing an overhaul of the education system that will include cutting the number of school districts in half.

Carr announced changes on Wednesday that will reduce the number of school districts to seven from 14.

"We have an opportunity and a responsibility to build something better, together," Carr said in a statement.

"We must do things more efficiently and free up resources and focus our efforts to where they will have the most impact – our children. We are empowering our schools and parents across the province with a stronger voice in the future of education and early childhood development in New Brunswick."

The Department of Education is proposing to create four anglophone districts.

  • the north district, which would include the Campbellton, Bathurst and Miramichi regions
  • the south district, which would include the Sussex, Saint John and St. Stephen regions
  • the east district, which would include the Rexton, Dieppe and Moncton regions
  • the west district, which would include the Fredericton, Oromocto,Woodstock and Edmundston regions.

There are going to be three francophone districts under Carr's plan.

  • the northeast district, which would include the Bathurst, Acadian Peninsula, Miramichi and Rogersville regions
  • the south district, which would include the Saint-Louis-de-Kent, Dieppe, Moncton, Saint John and St. Stephen regions
  •  the northwest district, which would include the Fredericton, Oromocto, Woodstock, Edmundston, Campbellton and Dalhousie regions.

Carr said the reorganization of school districts will save $5 million annually.

"The $5 million saved from reorganization will be reinvested at the school and classroom level," Carr said at a news conference.

Carr said there are about 400 administrative positions in the districts. He said that will be cut by roughly 75 to 100 positions. So there would be roughly 300 to 325 after the reforms are implemented.

A transition team including members from the department, districts and education councils will be working to finalize what positions will be cut.

New boards start July 1

Carr said 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. 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. The education minister said the new districts will be more in line with other education systems in Atlantic Canada.

The education minister said New Brunswick has twice as many school districts as Nova Scotia and three times as many as Newfoundland and Labrador.

The new councils will start on July 1 and the boundaries will be used in the May 14 district education council elections.

Carr said participation in previous elections has been low. In the last round of elections, 75 per cent of council members on the anglophone side were acclaimed or appointed and 82 per cent on the francophone side. 

The New Brunswick government is also proposing to pay chairpersons and councillors who sit on the District Education Councils.

The education department will pay $6,000 for chairpersons and $3,000 for council members.

Future changes

The education minister said more changes are looming in the future. The upcoming reforms may include:

  • school use
  • infrastructure planning
  • inclusive education
  • shared services

Carr issued a discussion document last year that asked citizens to offer ideas on how to trim the education department's budget.