More pay for kids to play

School District 85 Board approves playground funding.

PORT HARDY—In its first meeting of the 2012-13 school year, the School District 85 Board of Trustees approved first, second and third readings of bylaws that will provide provincial funding to upgrades of playground equipment and to a carbon-neutral capital project expected to save the district money on its electric bills in the future.

Under Capital Project Bylaw No. 126522, the district will be awarded $75,000 for a pair of school playground upgrade projects. These include a $50,000 replacement of aging or unsafe equipment at Eagle View Elementary School in Port Hardy and another $25,000 for repair of equipment at Sunset Elementary School in Port McNeill.

Trustee Jeff Field asked whether all or part of the funding could be used to reimburse the Eagle View Parent Advisory Council, which raised money to pay for new playground equipment installed earlier this summer.

Secretary-treasurer John Martin noted the new funding specifically addresses older equipment at Eagle View which has identified as requiring replacement or upgrade.

“Once this is approved, I’ll be meeting with both PACs to see what their plans are,” Martin said.

Under Capital Project Bylaw 126487, the district will receive up to $45,307 in capital funding for energy efficiency improvements. The money is part of a $4.7 million province-wide fund designed to assists districts that did not benefit from a previous capital program to compensate districts for the cost of carbon offsets.

“Our plan is to use these funds to increase the energy efficiency of our schools,” secretary-treasurer John Martin told trustees. “Three schools will be fitted with new, energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs and ballasts, resulting in significant long-term electric savings.”

Both bylaws received unanimous approval.

 

Enrolment falls

Trustees, administration and teachers all expressed concern about initial enrolment figures for SD85, which are well below projected attendance estimates.

Local schools receive provincial funding based on a per-pupil cost, and if the numbers do not rebound by the end of the month the district could face belt-tightening or restructuring of classes.

“Across the school district we’re in decline,” Superintendent Scott Benwell admitted. “Overall, we’re 76 students down from projections in the spring, and that represents a significant decline. We remain hopeful those numbers will turn around.”

The district has until the end of September to submit its enrolment figures to the province, and Benwell said the district will work with administrators and staff at each school in advance of any adjustments that may result from decreased funding.

“I have to tell you, it took me a little by surprise,” North Island Teachers’ Association president Fred Robertson said of the degree of the enrolment decline. “And there are cuts that are going to have to be made, I guess.

“(But) I think the last place you should cut are classrooms,” he added, noting primary class size went up following the last round of budget cuts in SD85. “There needs to be a serious look at the district as a whole.”