On March 28, Alberta Education announced that education funding would be shifted so that frontline health workers can access the supplies they need to support Albertans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further, to achieve this adjustment, temporary layoff notices were to be issued by, no later than, April 30, 2020 “for services not being utilized in an at-home learning environment, such as substitute teachers and educational assistants.”
The immediate result of this announcement on Holy Spirit Catholic School Division’s budget is a decrease of just under $1 million.
This comes after already operating on a planned deficit budget for the 2019/2020 school year, which has depleted the division’s operating reserves. Further complicating the situation, initial estimates for the 2020/2021 school year show a funding shortfall of approximately $1.6 million with no foreseeable increases over the next three years.
“To meet the timelines and estimated funding reductions targeted by Alberta Education, while still adhering to the Collective Agreements that govern employee relations with the majority of our support staff,” explained Superintendent Ken Sampson. “We had to act quickly to notify impacted staff of their lay-off with 30-days notice, which was on March 31.”
In spite of the short timelines, temporary layoff notices were forwarded to all educational assistants, including early learning educational assistants and early learning speech language assistants, as well as child and youth care workers, library clerks, library technicians and receptionists in the division, effective April 30, 2020. This has impacted 181 staff members.
“Fortunately,” added Sampson. “Holy Spirit Catholic School Division was able to work with ASEBP to maintain staff pensions, full health benefits, and access to the Employee Family Assistance Program during this temporary layoff period. This will ensure that they can maintain the health needs of their families during these stressful times, as well as access federal relief funds through the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit.”
As the situation evolves, the division will continue to review and consult with Alberta Education, local union representatives, and staff to manage resources and ensure that students’ needs are looked after.
“We will do everything in our power to maintain high quality Catholic education in the face of these reductions,” states Sampson. “These lay-offs are heartbreaking and we know that we are temporarily losing valuable support; people who are vitally important to the students they serve.”