The financial forecast for School District 67 has seen a dramatic improvement since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, board members heard at a recent business committee meeting.
Previously projected to run a deficit of $1.2 million the district now expects to end the year on June 30 with a $552,000 surplus, explained acting superintendent Todd Manuel.
Despite the extra money, Manuel said the district still has a “really challenging budget” on the horizon for the 2020-21 school year.
The district is currently in the process of creating the budget for the upcoming year. Anticipated challenges with the upcoming budget are due to declining enrolment.
Less than 110 fewer students attended in the 2019-20 school year than projected and there is also an expectation to lose 188 full-time equivalent students and 50 international students next year.
The Ministry of Education allocates funding based largely on enrolment.
“When we lose students, of course, that creates cost pressures and so we’re working through that process right now,” said Manuel.
Manuel expects that the declining number of students will result in job losses for teachers and other district employees.
“When there are fewer students in our district that does impact teachers and teaching positions,” he said. “Because of the cost pressures on the budget, because of less enrolment, there will be teaching positions impacted and there are impacts throughout the system.”
The district is currently in the process of compiling a report detailing the demographics around the students they are losing and reviewing possible reasons why enrolment is down. According to Manuel, until research is complete, any possible reasons for enrolment being down are purely speculative.
However, Manuel did note that recently jobs have been hard to come by in the South Okanagan.
“There’s a lot of families that have been faced with really tough issues around employment and jobs. Knowing that that’s the case, I guess, that would be my wonder… how is that impacting our community right now,” said Manuel.
Moving forward with the rest of the school year, the district soon expects the Ministry of Education to provide them with further direction on how to handle the rest of the year as B.C.’s economy slowly reopens amid the coronavirus pandemic. Manuel said he expects to be offering additional face-to-face teaching opportunities for parents who want that for their children in the near future.
The district is currently waiting on guidelines from the Ministry of Education and local health authorities for the 2020-21 school.