School budget Math 101

Parents on the West Coast are tracking School District 70 expenses after a legal error kept trustees from closing a school due to budget woes.

During Tuesday’s meeting and budget hearing in Ucluelet, Sarah Hogan of the Ucluelet Elementary School Parent Action Committee asked the school board for real numbers on how much the oversight will cost.

“We are formerly requesting that we be informed of the costs of the consultation process, including staff time and the cost of additional legal fees,” Hogan said.

Overturning an earlier controversial decision, the Alberni School District board of education announced in March there would be no school closures and no reconfiguration in the district for the 2014-15 school year, but that $800,000 in cuts will be coming to programs and services for students a result.

The initial motion that was passed, chairman Larry Ransom said at the time, was flawed and could not go through.

“We sought legal advice on our process, and we are aware that our process was flawed,” he said.

“It is quite unfortunate that staff failed to provide us with timely and accurate information on the process that was required to close schools.”

Ransom later said the importance of having parents knowing exactly where their children are going to school this September was the main reason for deciding to do nothing when it came to school closures and the reconfiguration of the district Ucluelet parents were not impressed by what appears to them to be a costly delay.

“We’re frustrated by the fact that the money (spent on the first) consultation process has been essentially lost (since) that vote to go with the fourth option that had not been consulted on or researched,” Hogan said.

“It’s our understanding that the consultation process will have to begin again.”

Parents are on alert about prospective budget cuts on the West Coast, where the small student population is showing more signs of growth at the elementary levels than in Port Alberni.

The UES community has already suffered from district cuts in everything from FTE (full-time employee) staffing-per-student ratios to janitorial to supervised time in the TLC room for students who work with staff help to regulate their own behavior, Hogan said.

“While we recognize that you’re dealing with an extremely restricted budget and we also recognize that closing schools is destructive and never popular, we feel that continuing to fund excess spaces … while reducing services is not sound policy,” Hogan said.

“The (fact that) the money that could have been put into services to ensure adequate health, safety and educational levels, will instead go to operate surplus spaces, is what we’re finding extremely frustrating,” Hogan said.

The parent committee plans to use the information on costs of the additional consultation to follow the recommendation of the School Act to have an active, wellinformed school planning committee, Hogan said.

“We also need that information so if we do have to lobby other levels of government, that we can show we’ve done our due diligence,” she said.

She asked for a report on the costs, as well as written responses to their concerns about the impacts of cuts, by May 20.

The parents of UES are asking for assurances that the school will not have further reduction in services “that will negatively impact the really positive things that are

going on,” Hogan said.

Ransom thanked them for their good presentation and asked them to follow up with district staff.

With files from Scott McKenzie.

editor@westerlynews.ca