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Regina schools end preschool programs due to provincial budget cuts
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, April 5, 2017 10:49AM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, April 5, 2017 4:51PM CST
Public schools in Regina are closing the book on preschool programs -- including two for kids with special needs -- because of provincial budget cuts.
The Regina public school board said preschool for three- and four-year-olds in programs that are not required by the Ministry of Education will be phased out by 2018-19, with no new registrations accepted for this fall.
"We're in a situation where we can only offer what we're funded for," Greg Enion, director of education, said Wednesday.
Kindergarten classes will also go from half a day, five days a week to full days on alternating days.
The board said cutting preschool programs and transportation costs that go with it will save about $1.3 million, while switching to full-day kindergarten will save about $446,070 in transportation costs.
About 1,100 children will also lose school bus service because the board is changing the distance that students have to live to qualify for transportation to save another $1.4 million. Kids, including those in kindergarten, must now live one kilometre or more away from the school to get provincially funded busing.
The board said the cuts are necessary because the province cut 2.5 per cent, or $5.7 million, in funding.
But it said with projected enrolment growth and the opening of three new schools, the effect of the funding cut and increased costs leaves a $9.5 million hole.
Enion said more cuts are coming.
"We still have about a $5 million to $6 million shortfall to make up," he said Wednesday.
"These three areas were approved by the board last night at our public meeting and so our plan is to move forward on these three in phase one. We did this at this time so that families that are affected by the changes would have some advance notice."
Saskatchewan Education Minister Don Morgan said he'd like to keep the preschool program for deaf children, but the province won't pay for it.
"Of course I do, but if it's a program that's not part of what the province does, then we have to look and see what resources a division has," said Morgan.
He suggested Regina Public Schools might be able to use reserve money to pay for the program.
Saskatoon Public Schools said its board doesn't usually make a final decision on its budget until June.
"This is an unusually difficult budget so the usual process may change this year," the school division said in an email. "But, so far, we have no emergency meetings planned and no budget decisions are imminent."
The cuts were part of the Saskatchewan government budget tabled at the end of March.
The government is trying to tackle a $1.3-billion deficit, resulting largely from a big drop in revenue from oil and gas, potash and uranium. The budget outlines a plan to get the deficit down to $685 million in the year ahead.
To do that, the government raised the provincial sales tax, cut funding to post-secondary institutions and shut down the Saskatchewan Transportation Company which provides bus service in the province.
Seven regional library systems are also losing more than half their funding and funding is being completely eliminated for libraries in Regina and Saskatoon.
An online campaign called Save Sask Libraries has been launched to fight the cuts and a grassroots "read-in" campaign is happening Friday where people are encouraged to take a book to their MLAs office and spend a few minutes reading.