COVID-19 is affecting student numbers and the flow of money from the government, say Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district administrators.
Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools saw greater numbers of students than usual choosing distance education to start the 2020-21 school year, with kindergarten-Grade 9 student registration for that program halted in November. B.C.’s Ministry of Education confirms funding amounts in December, based on end-of-September enrolment, Mark Walsh, district secretary-treasurer, told trustees at a meeting Jan. 13. He said the pandemic has skewed numbers in the district and the ministry is holding back money that it would normally provide at the beginning of the year.
“In this particular circumstance, because there were so many districts in probably similar circumstances to us [with] declines in bricks-and-mortar enrolment and declines of enrolment generally due to COVID, they had funding that the treasury board approved them for that they just didn’t have to divvy out … on the basis of the September count,” he said.
The district is waiting to hear how the money will be allocated, but if it is on a full-time equivalent student basis, Walsh estimates another $800,000.
A total of $5.2 million in safe return-to-class money from the federal government was announced for the district, Walsh said, but thus far Nanaimo-Ladysmith has only seen $2.6 million. The ministry has said it hasn’t been given approval to dole out the remainder yet, the secretary-treasurer said.
“Until those numbers are actually given to us, we can’t account for them in our own budget as revenue, and therefore the significant expenses, which we’ve actually staffed against already, won’t necessarily even be in the amended annual budget either unless we’ve heard from the ministry by that point,” said Walsh.
In terms of classroom enhancement fund money stemming from a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision related to class size and composition, Walsh said the district estimated $12 million, which was received in full.
Fifty-seven international students arrived in Nanaimo mid January, with a total of 73 expected this month. That would lead to approximately $475,000 in funding, Walsh said in a district staff report.
Numbers will be confirmed when staff make the amended annual budget presentation in February.