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Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district passes $218 million budget

School District 68 adding nine teachers for 2024-25
Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin file photo)

As the 2023-24 school year winds down, Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district has passed a $218-million budget for 2024-25.

Trustees unanimously approved first and second readings of Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ 2024-25 preliminary budget May 15 at a special board meeting, with third and final reading passing Wednesday, May 22.

Early estimates have 15,300 students in the halls of district schools in 2024-25. The school district has budgeted over $91 million for teachers, which will include the addition of nine teachers. Schools in Nanaimo-Ladysmith will be staffed with a complement of 918 teachers and 334 education assistants.

While the budget is preliminary and adjustments for enrolment will be made during the school year, Mark Walsh, district secretary-treasurer, said the school district is anxious as it was not conservative with enrolment projections.

“This year, you’re not seeing a huge fluctuation of losing a bunch of staff at this time of year and adding back in September and so the ability to add some additional resources in September is really not going to be there for us, at least on an operating additional dollars basis…” Walsh said. “Trying to have less layoffs, particularly [ among education assistants] was something we heard from our community that was important.”

Speaking to school trustees at the May 8 business committee meeting, Jo Cornthwaite, Nanaimo and District Teachers’ Association president, and Jeff Virtanen, CUPE Local 606 president, both expressed some concerns.

“While we’re happy to see no major cuts, we’re concerned that there’s still no investments in some really key areas,” Virtanen said. “No surprise, EAs need more hours, it’s a full stop. We believe that all EA positions should be 35 hours a week. We know it’s not financially realistic to do that in one budget, or probably even two or three, but we can be investing a little bit each time.”

Cornthwaite said she hoped for more staffing for distance learning, Island Connect Ed, for manageable caseloads.

“Our Island Connect teachers at the secondary level are facing caseloads of 300 or so students,” said Cornthwaite. “The work of a distance education teacher is different than that of a traditional classroom, but it’s not less work.”

At the May 18 meeting, Walsh reiterated that numbers are subject to change. Should there be more students in September, it will lead to more revenue and additional teachers and services.

“The board doesn’t approve those expenditures, it confirms them next January,” Walsh said. “We’ve made estimates on how many kids we’re going to have, international kids, kids with diverse needs, what those funding levels are going to look like, what interest rates are going to look like … this is preliminary in nature and will change.”

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

I joined Black Press in 2010 and cover education, court and RDN. I am a Ma Murray and CCNA award winner.
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