Rainbow Board faced with staff cuts due to decrease in student enrolment

SUDBURY—With a predicted enrolment decrease of 570 students this year overall in the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) system, it will also translate into the layoff of staff for the next school year.

“We have determined that the projected enrolment in our schools, forecast by school principals looking at current student numbers and new students attending our schools in September 2013, that the net loss on the elementary panel will be 258 students, and in the secondary panel 312 for a total of 570 students,” said Norm Blaseg, director of the RDSB, on Tuesday.

“Our typical net loss through attrition in a year is 250 (based on factors such as Grade 12 students graduating, and Junior Kindergarten enrolment),” said Mr. Blaseg. “We had hoped that we had hit a plateau, as the last two years we had 820, and 840 students in regards to the JK level for the board. But this year we are only projecting a total of 660 students in the JK level, which is in itself a loss of 180 students.”

“This difference is significant,” said Mr. Blaseg. “Especially when there has traditionally been a loss of 250 students in total, throughout the entire system, (elementary and secondary).” He explained traditionally 780-820 system wide in terms of new enrolment, but this year we are looking at 660. We will need to work with staff, principals, and parents on this.”

Mr. Blaseg stressed the student decline is about double what it usually is in a typical year. “This also has a huge impact on our system financially as it means we are down $6 million, as the province provides funding to school boards of about $10,500 per student. Multiplying this by 570 students, it means we are losing close to $6 million in funding.”

“This will mean we will have to make staff adjustments in terms of teachers, support teachers, and administration,” said Mr. Blaseg.

Based on the current numbers it would mean close to 60 positions will have to be reduced from the RDSB.

“We will be looking at some mitigating factors, such as early retirement among staff members,” said Mr. Blaseg. “We are projecting around 23 retirements: 12 elementary and 11 secondary school teacher retirements. But there will still have to be more cuts, as is the case with the administrative staff level, with two retirements expected, but more cuts will have to be made.”

“No one likes to see layoffs of anyone, but it especially affects young families,” said Mr. Blaseg. “We hope to be able to rekindle new interest, and engage the community such as with the Welcome to Kindergarten program being held in May to have more parents enrol their children in our school. Hopefully we will see more children enrolled in our schools before September than we are projecting, and this would help to mitigate the cuts that have to be made.”

Tom Sasvari