HPSD adopts tight budget

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Students and learning remain a top priority as High Prairie School Division adopted a budget for the 2020-21 school year.

Trustees passed a budget at a budget meeting May 14, says a news release May 29.

The board adopted a budget of $49,385,970, down from the previous budget of $51,561,745 for 2019-20.

“We have approved a balanced budget that continues to provide a quality public education to our students while preserving essential services as identified by our students, parents, and schools,” says Joyce Dvornek, who chairs the board.

School divisions face difficult times to teach during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as schools closed March 16.

“Trustees approved a budget that will continue to honour their strategic priorities and goals with an emphasis on wellness and academic success in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Supt. Laura Poloz says.

The fiscal reality of those decisions resulted in decreased funding for Indigenous success coaches, career coaches, educational assistants and staff at the division main office in High Prairie.

The budget that addresses a $2.1 million difference which has resulted in previously subsidized services being charged at or near actual costs.

Examples include busing fees and rentals for non-HPSD staff and students and tuition rates for non-resident students. 

While still offering those services, HPSD can no longer provide them at the subsidized rate offered to HPSD students and schools.

“Those decisions were made to be fiscally responsibly while keeping our budget in the classroom supporting students,” Dvornek says.

HPSD will continue to subsidize all in-town busing across the division.

Dual-track programming at École Routhier School in Falher and Georges P. Vanier School in Donnelly will also be subsidized.

The approved budget required the division to make calculated financial decisions to address a variety of factors impacting all school authorities in the province.

Changes to how school divisions can use their reserve funds, the elimination of the Regional Collaborative Services Delivery (RCSD) grant, changes to the Program Unit Funding (PUF) grant, and anticipated increases to insurance premiums are some of the key factors impacting the budget.

To address the loss of RCSD, HPSD will employ two counselling consultants, one speech-language pathologist and one occupational therapist.

Funding from the provincial School Nutrition Program fell to $300,000 for next school year from $419,000 in 2019-20, a drop of about 28 per cent.

“We will work with each of our schools to provide targeted and universal supports where possible based on evidence of need and available programs,” Dvornek says.

Funding changes to the PUF grant will also be addressed in this new budget.

The school division will work with each of its primary schools to ensure children with unique needs receive the care and support they require.

“HPSD strongly encourages all parents who are concerned their child may have a disability or delay to seek guidance from either Alberta Health Services or another qualified professional,” Dvornek says.

In the revised PUF criteria, children aged two years eight months to four years eight months are eligible for services if they have an assessment by a qualified professional of a severe disability or severe language delay and are registered as of Sept. 30.

Those who have not registered by Sept. 30 will be recommended to reach out to service providers in their community for support services. Children with a severe disability or severe language delay who are older than four years eight months in kindergarten will be eligible for supports from the division-based support staff, community service providers, and through a new Specialized Learning Support Grant which provides additional funding for the entire school jurisdiction to provide a continuum of supports and services to students in an inclusive learning environment.

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