Community school co-ordinators in School District 20 (SD20) are wondering how to cope with a $75,000 reduction in funding under the district’s new budget.
CommunityLINK (which stands for Learning Includes Nutrition and Knowledge) funding is provided by the provincial government to support vulnerable children in academic achievement and social functioning.
While the funds are handed over to the school boards, the community schools in each district expect the money for their programs and operating costs, Blueberry Creek Community School co-ordinator Bev George said.
However, with SD20 facing a $1.2-million budget shortfall this year, money was shuffled around, completely blindsiding George, who wrote an email to the board of education asking them to reconsider.
Removing the funding will have “devastating effects,” she said.
“A cookie cutter approach will not be successful in meeting the needs of our most vulnerable children,” George said. “Community schools are not a program, they are a strategy made up of a number of resources from the community and the school.”
Kim Williams, who is in charge of student support services for SD20, said the budget committee walked through hundreds of ideas and thought this was best for the district.
She acknowledged that it would be tough for the school co-ordinators to figure out how to cut their programming but they have no deadline as to when they have to decide.
“They may decide to have one co-ordinator [for all the schools],” she said.
But George said that wouldn’t be an option.
“Community schools are effective because each co-ordinator knows their families and students and provides daily support as needed,” she said. “When the Ministry of Education is moving towards individualized learning, early learning centres and neighbourhoods of learning as best practices dictate, Ms. Williams is moving us farther away from this ideal.”
She said the programs are working extremely well and by dismantling them, it would prove a detriment to the students.
“As a newcomer to SD20, Ms. Williams clearly doesn’t understand how well community schools partner with other agencies to support the most vulnerable children in our district, not only in the schools but outside of school hours as well,” George said.
But Williams said the reallocated funding will still be helping vulnerable children within the district, as it will be used to support the hiring of educational assistants, increasing school meals for full-day kindergarten students and hiring childcare workers.
Although the budget seems like a done deal on the administrative side, George said she will continue to fight the decrease in funding.