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‘It’s just what we have to do’: Program, service cuts coming to Surrey schools

Surrey school board approves ‘most challenging and difficult budget’ in 10 years
Surrey’s District Education Centre is pictured. (Sobia Moman photo)

A budget crunch for the Surrey school district is resulting in cuts to programs and services — something the board warned about last year.

At the regular May school board meeting, Surrey Schools trustees approved the annual budget for the 2024-25 school year, totalling $1.1 billion.

Trustee Gary Tymoschuk called it “the most challenging and difficult budget we’ve had to deal with” in at least the last decade.

“The upcoming school year does present unique challenges. We are facing increased costs due to inflation with no additional funding in our operating grants to offset these costs, requiring the district to utilize the existing resources more strategically,” said Trustee Terry Allen, who is also finance chair of the board.

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With anywhere between 92,000 and 97,000 students projected in the district by 2030, the board says that increasing student enrolment and a teacher shortage are making the changes inevitable.

Allen went on to explain that the bus service for the Intensive Literacy Program will be ending, along with the cutting of two StrongStart programs, bringing the total to 23 instead of 25, and a hiring freeze on some district office positions.

Additionally, the Montessori program from Latimer Road Elementary will be relocating, extended days will begin at six secondary schools and the number of French immersion divisions at one elementary school will be reduced.

Non-enrolling staff — consisting of career facilitators, transitions teachers and technology support teachers — will instead be working in classrooms to help address the shortage in teachers. The goal is for every classroom to have a certified teacher, the district states.

Some of these changes were introduced to the school community last week in a letter from Supt. Mark Pearmain.

“We recognize that budget changes may cause concern,” Pearmain acknowledged in the letter.

“Please rest assured that our priority remains on providing high-quality education and ensuring the success of every student. These measures are designed to focus our limited resources on areas that directly impact your child’s learning experience.”

The potential for cuts to programs was raised last year as the board emphasized its struggle to fund other services when portables are increasingly funded from the operating budget.

Cuts, however, may not end there as the board states that programs and services will continue to be reviewed for financial viability.

“Some of the decisions that Trustee Allen outlined are not ones I believe any one of us wants to make, but given the reality of the funding that is available and is not available on the other side of the coin, it’s just what we have to do,” Tymoschuk said.

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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