Archive for Dundurn

Cutbacks will affect Hanley, Dundurn bands

By Joel van der Veen

WARMAN — School band programs for students in grades 5 through 10 will be among the casualties of a $7.1-million funding shortfall faced by Prairie Spirit School Division (PSSD) for the coming year.

PSSD announced in a bulletin sent to parents at the beginning of last week that as of this fall, instrumental band programs for those grades would no longer be funded across the division, which covers 45 schools in the communities surrounding Saskatoon, including Hanley Composite School and Dundurn Elementary School.

“Due to the major financial shortfall being experienced by our school division . . . we are faced with tough decisions regarding the allocation of available funds,” the bulletin read.

The bulletin explained that the current instrumental band program would be replaced with a broader musical education program over the next couple of years.

Starting in September, curricular after-school band practices will no longer be held for grades 5 through 10.

The bulletin noted that interested teachers may choose to organize extracurricular band practices, but stated that bussing for band students for those practices would not be provided.

Students who earned a Band 10 credit this year will be given the opportunity to complete Band 20 and/or Band 30 credits over the next couple of years, through a combination of classroom time and independent study.

These changes will have a direct impact on students in Hanley and Dundurn, where instrumental band programs are currently part of the curriculum.

Division staff confirmed that Dundurn Elementary School offers band for students in grades 5 and 6, while Hanley Composite School offers the program between grades 5 and 12.

PSSD staff members were not available for comment last week, but communications consultant Brenda Erickson provided a written statement to the Leader.

According to the division, the proposed change to the band program is “one of many reductions . . . that have been undertaken” in response to the funding shortfall, including cutbacks to staff and administration at the division office in Warman.

The bulletin to parents acknowledged that under the current program, fewer children continue to study music into their middle years and high school.

According to the division, band programs at the Grade 5 level attract from 38 to 64 per cent of students, but numbers drop off dramatically for students in grades 9 through 12, where band program enrolment sits at between 2 and 6 per cent.

“We know that students continue to have a strong interest in music in their lives, but they often are unable to find appealing or feasible ways to connect it to their experiences in school by the time they reach the secondary level,” read the bulletin.

“In making these changes, the school division hopes to positively impact the music education of a greater number of students.”

PSSD board chairman Larry Pavloff told the Leader last month that administrators were working “feverishly” to address the funding shortfall while minimizing the impact on students.

He said the province’s educational funding model was to blame, and that because of increased salaries for teachers negotiated by the province, the division was effectively left with the same amount of money to cover its growing expenses each year.

Prairie Spirit has made more than $2 million in staffing and programming cuts over the last two years, while $3 million in reserve funding was used to balance last year’s budget.

For the full story, please see the June 1 edition of The Davidson Leader.

Prov. to invest $4.8 million in area parks, rec facilities

By Joel van der Veen

ELBOW — Elbow’s mayor said the village is “absolutely thrilled” with a recent announcement that the province will invest $1.8 million into the Lake Diefenbaker district, including the addition of a second boat launch at Elbow Harbour.

Mayor Rob Hundeby said the expansion is much needed and will see frequent use at the harbour, which is located south of the village.

He said the harbour has sometimes suffered from long lineups of users waiting to use the current boat launch, as was the case on the July long weekend last year.

“There was a lineup of 17 boats to get into the main (launch),” he said. “There should no longer be major lineups to enter the beautiful lake that we reside beside.”

The Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport announced its plans for the Lake Diefenbaker parks on May 22.

These include a new visitor reception centre at Douglas Provincial Park, as well as repairs and upgrades to the beach retaining wall at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park.

The ministry also announced three days later that it plans to invest more than $2.9 million into Blackstrap Provincial Park, located about 10 kilometres southeast of Dundurn.

There, the province intends to develop a new 63-site campground — almost doubling the number of sites available at the park — along with a service centre and additional infrastructure.

Between the two announcements, the total to be invested into local parks and recreation facilities comes to nearly $5 million.

Hundeby said the announcement comes at a busy time for the village, which has begun to welcome its usual steady stream of summer tourists and guests.

“Elbow is in full swing,” he said. “For us, the harvest has begun . . . It’s exciting times for this town and surrounding resort communities.”

Dundurn’s deputy mayor, Annette Hamilton, also welcomed the news about the new campground at Blackstrap, saying it came as a surprise to council members. Expansion plans had been discussed but no update had been received in more than a year.

“The whole area is going to benefit from this,” she said, noting that local businesses would gain from the increased traffic. “The summer months will be a lot busier.”

In a statement, parks, culture and sport minister Mark Docherty said the investment in the Lake Diefenbaker area would “enhance the experience of our visitors and will make this area an even more attractive place to vacation.”

For the full story, please see the June 1 edition of The Davidson Leader.

Prairie Spirit to face $7 million funding shortfall next year

By Joel van der Veen

WARMAN — The board chairman for Prairie Spirit School Division said it’s not yet clear how a $7 million funding shortfall for the coming year will affect individual schools.

A bulletin sent to parents by the division last month indicated that the shortfall — representing 6 per cent of the overall budget — was on the horizon, and greater than initially expected.

Board chairman Larry Pavloff said administrators are working “feverishly” to determine how to address the gap while reducing the repercussions for students, but added that more details wouldn’t be available until later in the spring.

“The impact on each individual school should be known in the middle of June,” he said. “We’re trying to minimize the impact on our student learners and adult learners.”

For the 2015-16 school year, the division — which covers 45 schools in the communities surrounding Saskatoon, including Hanley Composite School and Dundurn Elementary School — received a funding increase of $3.6 million.

Pavloff argued that this essentially covers the cost of teachers’ salaries as negotiated by the province, leaving the division with effectively the same funding they received the previous year.

This means there’s no new funding to cover other costs, like higher enrolment levels, inflation or contractual obligations.

As Pavloff said, “We have no way of spending that, because that money is already spent.”

The chairman said the division has pledged that no current full-time staff will lose their jobs, and that they hoped that attrition through retirement would help to bridge the gap.

Pavloff said the current situation began in 2012, when the province’s new education funding model came into effect, developed over the course of three years.

He said the model did not reflect the reality facing Prairie Spirit, and that problems were soon detected.

Transitional funding was introduced to help divisions maintain services and education prior to the introduction of the new model, and divisions have since been told to tailor their budgets to fit.

Pavloff said that the division protested at the time, but “the ministry hasn’t budged on that.”

According to the bulletin issued by Prairie Spirit, it is one of the province’s lowest-funded school divisions on a per capita basis. Funding per student has decreased from $10,386 in 2011-12 to $9,783 in 2014-15.

The division also has one of the highest pupil-to-teacher ratios in the province, which has grown as the board has attempted to cope with the funding shortfall.

Prairie Spirit has made more than $2 million in staffing and programming cuts over the last two years, while $3 million in reserve funding was used to balance last year’s budget.

For the 2013-14 school year, Prairie Spirit had a graduation rate of 87.0 per cent, compared to the provincial average of 74.7 per cent.

At that time, according to the division, assurance was given that the funding model would be adjusted to address the inequity, but nothing has happened on that front since.

The bulletin also said the shortfall would strain its ability to maintain graduation rates, results in literary and math, and success amongst its First Nations and Métis students.

Pavloff said the conflicting information has led to confusion among parents. The division held its annual general meeting on Waldheim on April 29, following which the board answered some questions about the budget.

Attempts to reach the Ministry of Education for contact late last week were unsuccessful.