It appears parents in the Tri-Cities are going to have to get used to a school district and its staff trying to do more with less.
On Tuesday, School District 43 officials offered greater detail about the cuts being proposed to deal with a $12.1million deficit for the 2013-14 school year.
To balance the budget, some of the big cuts the district is proposing include chopping 22 teaching positions by increasing class sizes at all levels, cutting 17 teaching positions from international education, cutting another 12 learning support teachers, and reducing six positions from its high incidence staff.
The proposed cuts also include dropping five principal and vice-principal positions, six administration positions, 12 clerical positions, 10 custodians, seven from facilities and maintenance, and further cuts and a reorganization of support staff such as youth workers, teachers' assistants and special-education assistants.
In all, the proposed cuts would save $12.5 million.
School District 43 Supt. Tom Grant noted the district has already begun identifying and notifying individuals of potential cuts.
District officials first started to offer details last week of proposed major cuts to deal with a ballooning deficit that included cutting 142 positions, or six per cent of staff across the board.
The budget woes forced apologies from both the superintendent and school board chair at a previous meeting.
Coquitlam Teachers' Association president T e r e s a Grandinetti suggested that while an extra student or two in a class may not seem like much, it will mean an increase workload for teachers.
She was especially disappointed by the district's plan to cut the staff development department by two-thirds, to six from 18, suggesting it is the envy of the province.
Grandinetti noted the learning support teachers in the department help mentor other teachers in the district.
School District 43 is the only one in the province with a staff development department.
"It will be felt throughout the whole district. It's very sad," Grandinetti said of the cut.
She said the association is hoping to put forward some ideas for the budget that might reduce the cuts in staff.
The meeting was also an opportunity for both board members and the public to ask questions and provide comment on the budget.
Both the local teachers association and CUPE called on the board to perform an audit on the district's books to find out exactly how the deficit came about.
Grandinetti didn't appear to trust the numbers being presented by the district.
It was noted by administration the district is expecting a decline in enrolment for next year of 75 students, but the CTA suggested the number could be more like 400.
Grandinetti said it's easier to add staff in the fall if the decline isn't as big as predicted, rather than cut.
While a number of groups were asking the school board to reconsider just how deep it might cut, board chair Melissa Hyndes said the district couldn't continue to operate the same way as in the past.
"There will be times when we'll have discussions on what's important to us . in this time we have to make those difficult decisions and have a fulsome discussion about it," she said.
However, Hyndes suggested any changes would not be long term, adding School District 43 has always been the envy of other districts.
"I believe we will rebuild what we had," she said.
As for an audit, Hyndes said the board will have a discussion on the idea.
She said the board needs to figure out first what kind of audit is needed to get the answers it's looking for in terms of the errors made in the budget process.
Though Hyndes didn't offer a specific timeline for when the board would OK an audit, she suggested it would come once the budget is finalized and before the end of the school year.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for 7: 30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30 in the gym at Winslow Centre, at 1100 Winslow Ave. in Coquitlam.
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