Thunder Bay

Northwestern Ontario school boards adjust budgets, staffing after provincial allocations slashed

School boards across northwestern Ontario agree on one thing: the upcoming school year will have fewer staff on the payroll.

Some boards shifting budgets to keep more teachers in classrooms

Sean Monteith, Director of Education for the Keewatin Patricia District School Board, said staff at the board office will be cut to help keep teachers in the classroom. (KPDSB)

School boards across northwestern Ontario agree on one thing: the upcoming school year will have fewer staff on the payroll.

How the payroll changes though, will be different for each school board, with some keeping teachers in the classroom at all costs, while others will have fewer teachers and also fewer board staff.

"We've maintained that staffing from other sources of funding, just because we felt it was important that our spec ed staff, especially our EA's are working with our most vulnerable students," said Brendan Hyatt, the Director of Education with the Northwest Catholic District School Board.

That organization serves Fort Frances, Dryden, Atikokan and Rainy River areas. 

Hyatt said his board will lose 7.8 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers, something that is not taken lightly, but is necessary to stay within the board's budget.

"That puts in line with that the province has in regards to expectation on class sizes and funding."

Hyatt said other programs, like student success will be cut, along with three board level staff positions.

Another approach, followed by the Keewatin Patricia District School Board, was to keep teachers in the classroom, at all costs.

That particular direction had board officials searching for any savings, said Sean Monteith, the Director of Education.

He said a significant number of board positions will be eliminated, but those savings will keep the same number of teachers on the payroll as there are for the 2018-2019 school year.

"We have a significant number of central staff in both board offices, and outside the classrooms that have received their surplus notices, and will be out of jobs for the start of the next school year."

Monteith said the board decided to consolidate its two offices in Dryden and Kenora into one building, being the top floor of Keewatin Public School. The move will save the board thousands of dollars per year, however, Monteith said more positions could be eliminated in the coming years when the offices complete their amalgamation.

In Thunder Bay, Lakehead Public Schools said its budget will not be approved until July, but it expects numerous changes this year. 

The Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board said there will be "many challenges and changes in regards to staffing and funding." The board said there would be 12.5 full time equivalent positions eliminated due to a $1 million funding cut in local priorities funding from the province.

The cuts will affect unionized employees across all departments, the board said.

One of the smallest school boards in the northwest, by student population, said it will not see as many changes to its programs due to budget cuts.

Superior-Greenstone District School Board said it is re-organizing its library services for its high schools, and will cut some of its attendance counsellor positions.

Director of Education Nicole Morden-Cormier said the board does not have any additional staff who administer programs, unless they are directly funded by the Ministry of Education.

She said it means the board's staff are mainly unaffected by provincial budget changes. However, she said declining enrolment will see the board make some changes.

The province said it will provide $12,246 per pupil, which is down $54 per student from the 2018-2019 school year.

About the Author

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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