PORT HARDY – Secretary Treasurer John Martin said at the S.D. 85 board meeting Mar. 14 he had received “really good news” from the Ministry of Education regarding next year’s school district operating grant. Martin said he had forewarned trustees that the budget for 2011-12 would shrink by $1.2 million over three or four years with the removal a ministry funding protection scheme. However, the ministry indicated funding protection will remain in place for at least one more year.
Martin reminded the board that it has been holding a surplus of about $500,000 to soften the expected financial blow.
The continuation of funding protection next year and the surplus to protect against the removal of funding protection moved to the following year, coupled with projected stable student enrollment numbers, provide confidence that “for the next two years we are not looking for major staffing and program cuts,” said Martin.
Martin went on to say that he and Director of Instruction Katherine McIntosh have worked through the enrollment projections and staffing projections for the 2011-12 school year and will be accepting board, public and staff input on plans for next year with a view to bringing the board a report on those items in the near future.
The Ministry of Education is moving increasingly towards having most provincial exams written on computers, said McIntosh.
Trustee Carol Prescott asked McIntosh if students get to try out the electronic interface before writing their exams. McIntosh said they do not, but the electronic interface does not present problems for today’s student.
Trustee Werner Manke asked if what happens if the computer breaks down. McIntosh said the computers are checked ahead of time by administrators to assure they are in working order. She also pointed out that special needs students are better served by the computer because the questions can be read aloud by the computer rather than having a scribe on hand to do that task.
Trustee Manke asked if the students might be able to Google answers during an exam. McIntosh said that was not possible.
Martin said the district has tendered heating and air conditioning upgrades for Fort Rupert Elementary School and he has reviewed the bids. He said the bids were all pretty close, with the lowest from Nelson Sheet Metal and Roofing with a bid of $135,738. Martin recommended to the board that it award the contract to Nelson Sheet Metal and Roofing.
Trustee Ann Hory asked if the Nelson company was a North Island firm. Martin answered that it is a Vancouver Island company that has done lots of work for this school district previously.
“They did good work for us,” said Martin.
The board unanimously approved the awarding of the contract.
Superintendent Kathy Bedard reported that April will be recognized as Earth Month in the district. The district has asked students to put forward projects with that theme. She also said the district will host a youth forum on environmental topics involving about 120 student participants in Port Alice on May 5.