Nanaimo-Ladysmith school board to consider more funding for classroom resources

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school board to consider more funding for classroom resources
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Nanaimo-Ladysmith Public Schools’ business committee is recommending the board of trustees allocate $2,000 to each elementary school for classroom resources.

Any funds not spent by June 30, 2022 would be restricted and returned to the school for future resource allocations, the recommendation says.

Currently, the district funds approximately $20,000 per new classroom for desks, bookshelves and other infrastructure and $1,000 for learning resources. Elementary schools also receive an average of $110 per student per year for supplies and services.

Over the summer the district surveyed school staff on resource availability. Responses revealed the situation varies school-to-school as a result of varying staff turnover year-to-year. Some schools keep a clear inventory of resources that must stay in a classroom or can go with a teacher who is retiring or transferring. Other schools leave it up to the transferring teacher.

Other than Kindergarten classrooms, which get startup resources from a standardized list, the district only provides basic furniture and equipment for new classrooms; the rest is up to the schools and individual teachers and decisions are generally made at the staff committee level, the district survey determined.

While PACs often fundraise to provide resources for teachers, support varies widely from school-to-school, ranging between $0 and $800 per classroom per year.

Survey respondents also indicated that it’s not just new teachers who need a hand; teachers who already have classrooms would also like access to funds to refresh existing resources.

But elementary schools don’t appear to use all the funding provided to them.

An information sheet provided to the business committee notes that in 2017-18, over $87,000 provided to elementary schools went unspent, and in 2019-20 $274,000 was unspent, though in that year the district froze spending for schools prior to learning about incoming COVID-19 relief funding.

Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh suggested leftover funds could be allocated “more aggressively” to address resource challenges.

If the funding recommendation is passed by the board on Sept. 29, Walsh said staff would convey to school administration that resources purchased should be meant for continuous use in line with the board’s sustainability requirements.

At the end of this school year, district staff would meet with schools again to discuss what issues around classroom resources, if any, remain.

Trustee and board chair Charlene McKay asked if additional funding could be expanded to secondary schools. Walsh said the direction from the board last budget round was to only look into elementary schools and staff would need further direction from the board to expand the scope.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, GABRIOLA SOUNDER/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter via The Canadian Press

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