Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools passed a $166 million budget for 2020/21 school year. (News Bulletin file)

COVID-19 considered as Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district passes budget

$200K for coronavirus contingency in Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ 2020-21 financial plan

The current school year was affected by COVID-19 and the pandemic is influencing how trustees prepare for next school year’s budget, too.

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ board passed a $166 million budget bylaw on June 17 and the district is preparing for the possibility the pandemic will stretch into 2020-21, allocating $200,000 to a COVID-19 response fund.

According to the district budget document, the money will go towards cleaning supplies and increased custodial and technological supports and other COVID-19 expenses that could come up in 2020-21.

The district is projecting enrolment of 14,467 full-time equivalent students, as well as $133.5 million in operating grant money from the B.C. Ministry of Education. The district is budgeting for 759 full-time equivalent teachers, 66 school administrators, 261 teaching assistants, 234 support staff and 49 school professionals (i.e. managers) in 2020-21, with $125.5 million for related salaries.

The district is allocating $9.4 million in enhancement fund money for salary for some 96 full-time equivalent teachers, including seven English language learning staff, as well as $1.4 million for other staff, including district principal, vice-principal, a human resources manager, payroll specialist, facilities planner, a plumber/gas fitter, electrician, four caretakers and a half-time human resources assistant.

Travelling restrictions due to the pandemic are anticipated to affect the district international student education program, with the number of students from overseas estimated to decrease to 67 in 2020-21 (from 263 this past school year), which amounts to revenue of $944,190, a loss of $2.8 million from the previous year.

In an e-mail, Mark Walsh, district secretary-treasurer, said the there were many variables to take into consideration when budgeting due to the coronavirus. While the Ministry of Education has provided the district with “stable funding and supported increased salary costs for teachers and support staff, there are numerous unpredictable assumptions for the district due to COVID-19,” he said.

He said it’s unclear how many international students will enrol and whether some will move to distance learning, which comes with lower per-student funding.

“We have budgeted conservatively to ensure that we can meet our revenue targets,” he said. “With respect to expenses, it is unclear how much additional cleaning will be required which may depend on what stage we are with respect to COVID-19 provincially. Staff replacement costs are also an unknown.”

Walsh said the district is confident that the budget will support students and staff to be safe in school.

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