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NWSS programs avoid chopping block

NWSS PAC chair Stephen Bruyneel - Grant Granger/NewsLeader file
NWSS PAC chair Stephen Bruyneel
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader file

New Westminster secondary parents were relieved to hear all of the school’s current programs will be around next year, but it might cost them a bit more.

NWSS parent advisory council chair Stephen Bruyneel said it was “fabulous” for parents to get the news last Thursday when they met with district CEO John Gaiptman and principal Phil Cookson.

However, to make it happen, the school will ask parents to help transport students to athletic games instead of paying for taxis, and pay increased fees.

“The good thing is Phil made the commitment and John made the commitment [on a] framework for the future, so not just next year. We’re hopeful we won’t have to fight this battle next year or the year after that,” said Bruyneel.

He said he was stunned to find out the district paid $100,000 to drive students to games.

“I could never understand why we took taxis,” said Bruyneel.

“I don’t think [parents transporting students to games is] unreasonable. I’m not sure how we got in the taxi situation in the first place.”

The district will continue to pay for game officials and for school teams to register for league play.

Gaiptman said the district was able to find ways to keep programs by being more efficient and slightly increasing the student-teacher ratio.

“It was never a question about reducing the programs. There is no savings in just reducing programs. It is timetabling more efficiently,” said Gaiptman. “Really small classes will not be able to run.”

Although the International Baccalaureate program is expensive it is part of the culture at NWSS, said Gaiptman. “It shouldn’t be threatened to where it won’t be there.”

However, the district will be boosting the fees for IB to reduce the costs.

The district will bump up the amount it contributes to NWSS’s operating budget by almost $340,000. That’s a big increase over last year’s $65,000 but still a far cry from the $800,000 it used to get annually.

“That doesn’t quite get them where they [were] a couple of years ago, but it does get them all the programs that will run,” said Gaiptman.

The district is in the midst of balancing its budget for 2014-15. It was supposed to begin paying back an accumulated deficit of about $5 million then, but the Ministry of Education has thrown New West a lifeline by postponing it until 2015-16. Gaiptman said 2014-15 is not only about making the bottom line even out, but also making the efficiencies stable in the following years so its programs are sustainable.

Budget discussions will continue with a public meeting at the NWSS Library today (Wednesday, April 16) starting at 7 p.m. The public and school trustees will talk it over again at a board meeting in the library Tuesday, April 22 with a final decision coming when he board meets at City Hall on April 29.

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