The Medicine Hat Public School Division had a short, in-person meeting Wednesday with its temporary and probationary contract teachers to inform them that fewer teachers will be employed in the 2023-24 school year, and not all of them would be able to secure a position within the division.

“We thought it was necessary to meet face to face with our staff so we could explain the challenges and answer their questions,” stated superintendent Mark Davidson. “We did this now because there is still a considerable amount of work to be done to finalize the budget for 2023-2024. We wanted staff to have as much time as possible to explore other options, if there isn’t a position available to them in the next school year.”

The provincial government introduced a new funding framework for education in 2019-20. Bridge funding was introduced for one year in 2020-21 to help school divisions adjust to the new funding model. A year later, during the pandemic, ‘hold harmless’ funding was implemented to offset any loss of resources during COVID. That funding ends in August.

Hold harmless funding allowed MHPSD to maintain staffing levels that exceeded enrolment throughout the pandemic and current school year. The division is also experiencing declining enrolment due to an aging demographic in Medicine Hat. Over the course of the past five years, MHPSD has seen a decrease of 400 students throughout the division, a trend expected to continue for the next decade.

“With the hold harmless funding coming to an end as well as the decrease in instructional dollars, we will need to adjust 2023-2024 staffing to align with current enrolment. While we appreciate the resources that have been provided in the last five years, the new funding framework poses some challenges that our leadership team is currently working to address,” said Davidson.

The division is expecting modest increases in average class sizes for the 2023-24 school year.

Davidson continued, “We are working to protect classrooms by focusing on supports to address the complexities we face today. We are being very thoughtful in making these decisions, evaluating potential cost savings in all aspects of our work.”

Davidson says the division will be presenting a balanced budget to the board of trustees at a public meeting in May.

By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 23, 2023

UPDATE: Education ministry says funding for MHPSD won’t decrease

By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published March 28, 2023

The Medicine Hat Public School Division had a meeting last week with temporary and probationary contract teachers last week. The meeting was concerning the possibility of fewer teachers being employed for the 2023-24 school year and to give them time to explore other opportunities should they not be able to secure a position within MHPSD.

The News published a story on March 23 titled “Lost funding means fewer MHPSD teachers” regarding the reasons why the division held the meeting. The story cited, provincial funding for the education system, and on Saturday, the News received an email from Emily Peckham, press secretary to Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange, to clarify funding allocated to MHPSD.

Peckham’s email states, “Minister LaGrange has met with the Medicine Hat Public School Division several times on this matter, and she remains concerned about their initial budget assumptions.

“Yesterday, the minister formally asked her department to assess and confirm the accuracy of the board’s budget assumptions and return with an update. No staffing decisions are to be made before the review is completed.

“Medicine Hat Public School Division is experiencing declining enrolment of approximately 400 students. Despite this, funding has been maintained and Medicine Hat Public is projected to receive the same funding next school year as they did this year.”

The statement was also sent to MHPSD. In response, board chair Catherine Wilson issued the following statement.

“We have been pleased with the open and collaborative spirit of the conversations we have had with Minister LaGrange in our discussions about the 2023-2024 budget. We have every confidence that, together, we will meet our shared goal of continuing to provide excellent service to Medicine Hat’s students.”

Upon further inquiries regarding the “hold harmless” funding, Peckham responded with the following statement.

“Funding for Medicine Hat Public School Division has been maintained and they are projected to receive the same funding next school year as they did this year. While COVID mitigation funding (also known as hold harmless funding) is not continuing, that funding has been put back into the funding model in the form of grant rate increases and a limited amount of stabilization funding.”

For the next school year, there will be increases in, among others, the Base Instruction Grant (6%), Specialized Learning Supports (10%) and School Nutrition Grant (20%).

“In addition,” continued Peckham, “stabilization funding was allocated to support several school authorities, which like MHPSD have experienced a decline in enrolment and would otherwise receive less funding to reflect the reduction of students in their divisions – this stabilization funding ensures funding levels do not decrease.”

MHPSD sent the following statement to the News.

“We will be happy to provide a comment on the budget once we have completed our full review.”

This item reprinted with permission from   Medicine Hat News   Medicine Hat, Alberta

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