The Yellowknife Catholic school board will spend most of next year’s budget on salaries and the implementation of junior kindergarten, while funding inclusive and aboriginal programming remains a challenge.
In an open meeting Tuesday night with no members of the public in attendance, assistant superintendent Janet Toner laid out the coming school year’s $23.8 million budget for Yellowknife’s Catholic Schools. More funding and higher enrolment are expected, while challenges remain to fund inclusive and aboriginal programming for junior kindergarten.
The school board will be seeing big changes in the fall with the start of three junior kindergarten classes at St. Joseph School and two at Weledeh Catholic School. The district will receive $1,274,033 more than it did last year from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, most of it going toward the implementation of junior kindergarten. Yet Toner said it will be a challenge to cover the extra costs for inclusive schooling and aboriginal students in junior kindergarten that is not provided in the territorial government funding.
“It’s a small group of students and we want to provide the best we can for all of those students,” she said. “Trying to help them all out is challenging with a limited source of money. So that’s the challenge that we have is making sure that all of our students have the best for them that allows them to move forward.”
Toner said the board will still provide support for inclusive schooling and aboriginal programming from junior kindergarten up to Grade 12. The funds for this programming will be covered by the property taxes the school district receives from the city, which is getting a $71,000 boost over the previous year’s allotment of $4,077,000.
With the implementation of junior kindergarten, existing day care programs will be closed, including the preschool program, four-plus program for kindergarten students with special needs and the Yellowknife Family Centre for students under three. The Family Centre transitioned to the YWCA Yellowknife on April 1.
Not reflected in the Catholic schools district’s budget is the $15,000 per junior kindergarten class the school board has been told it will receive from the GNWT for facilities updates to accommodate the younger students.The Catholic district will have five junior kindergarten classes with a maximum of 20 students each when school resumes in fall — three at St. Joseph School, two at Weledeh.
The district had a total of 1,426 students as of Sept. 30.
Superintendent Claudia Parker said the board doesn’t need to do any classroom renovations. The funds will instead be spent on resources for inside the classroom, such as puzzles, sand tables and other tools to enable students to “learn through play.”
Eighty-five per cent of the $23.8 million budget will go to salaries while the rest is operation and maintenance costs for the three schools and the Kimberlite trades school the board runs.
A roof repair at the district office building on 49 Street is estimated to cost more than $50,000. The exact cost of the repair will only be known after the public tender process is completed. The flat roof design needs to be altered to prevent damage from snow and water pooling.
“We need to change it so it actually has a better slope to it so the water can actually drain off the roof better, rather than it sitting on the roof,” Toner said “Rather than doing a full roof repair, it’s a way for us to be preventative.”
Other minor capital spending include a maintenance vehicle estimated to cost $35,000 and some repairs to the entrance of St. Patrick High School estimated at $10,000. The school board has requested capital funding to purchase portables for St. Joseph School. This is not included in the budget as the district is waiting to hear back from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment.
Overall, the district projects a operating surplus of $958,745. Parker said the figure was kept small so as much money as possible could be put into schools to support students.
The 2017-2018 budget will come into effect July 1 after a public meeting and a trustee vote in June. Once approved it will be submitted to Education Minister Alfred Moses.
In a previous version of the story, the amount for the increase in funding from the GNWT was incorrect. The correct amount is $1,274,033.