Edmonton

Edmonton Public Schools warning parents to brace for budget cuts

Parents of students enrolled at Edmonton Public Schools were warned about how budget cuts will affect schools in a letter sent Thursday. 

'This was a way to update them on some of the real solutions we're putting in place right away'

Trisha Estabrooks, Edmonon Public School Board Chair, spoke to the media Friday about how the board plans to deal with budget shortfalls. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Parents of students enrolled at Edmonton Public Schools were warned about how budget cuts will affect schools in a letter sent Thursday. 

Superintendent Darrel Robertson in the letter outlined the effects the provincial government's recent budget will have on teachers and students.

He specifically drew attention to the school board's $34.4 million funding shortfall for this school year.

The funding shortfall is due to three crucial grants being eliminated by the province, the letter explained.  

The education budget is also now frozen for four years, Robertson said.

Board Chair Trisha Estabrooks said Friday she wants to reassure parents, students and teachers that the effects of the funding shortfall will be minimal. 

"Yes, we are facing this gap, but things will continue within Edmonton Public Schools with as least disruption as possible for our students and our classrooms," she said.

Robertson wasn't available for comment Friday.

Modest surplus

Estabrooks said the freeze on spending will be cushioned by a modest surplus.

But school board officials are looking to make-up at least $5 million in savings. 

To do so, the school board plans on implementing the following:

  • Put in place a hiring freeze for its central departments
  • Put in place a new approval process for the hiring of school positions
  • Eliminate non-essential out-of-town travel and professional development for staff
  • Reduce spending on external contractors to provide student assessments by $1 million
  • Reduce spending from the district's equity fund by $1.5 million

The Board of Trustees has said it will look at all funding options, which might include passing along mid-year transportation fee increases to families.

"Our transportation system is complex, it's expensive but the prospect of going out to families mid-year and asking them to pay more for a service they initially signed up for in September is not ideal," said Estabrooks. 

She said any decisions made about transportation will be shared with parents in advance. 

The budget shortfall this year, and in the coming years, will prove to be a challenge, according to Estabrooks.

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