School staffing bolstered with $1 million from province

Staffing at local schools will be bolstered with $1 million in top-up funding from the B.C. government.

Staffing at local schools will be bolstered with $1 million in top-up funding from the B.C. government.

That will cover the cost of 9.3 full-time equivalent teachers plus five education assistants’ positions in the Okanagan Skaha School District.

Superintendent Wendy Hyer said the district is sharing this year in $94 million the province committed to its Learning Improvement Fund — aimed at addressing classroom size and composition issues — up from $75 million last year. That overall increase was necessary, she said, as a result of new contracts with teachers and support staff that require certain portions of the fund be used to hire from their respective unions.

“The dollars are targeted, and there are a bit more dollars because of the negotiations, but it’s not a significant a mount,” she said.

School administrators annually make their case for extra staff to Hyer, who then makes decisions in consultation with union leaders, although the process was thrown off track this year due to the teachers’ strike.

Uplands Elementary will receive the most additional help with one FTE teacher, while Parkway is next on the list with a 0.9 FTE position.

“For the most part, I would say every school received the teaching staff they requested,” said Hyer, who noted the two elementaries at the top of the list have a “handful” of students with “exceptional needs” in all of their kindergarten classes.

The total budget available for those teachers is $846,000.

An education assistant will also be provided for the full five-hour school day at each of Parkway, Uplands and West Bench elementaries and Summerland Middle School, plus another facility that’s yet to be determined.

The total budget available for those education assistants is $211,000.