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'Significant' job cuts possible as lagging economy hits Alberta school division

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE, Alta. – A central Alberta school division is facing the prospect of a large staff cut as it feels the pinch of the province’s economic downturn.

The Wild Rose School Division expects 239 fewer students will be registered this fall compared to last year, as many families move away to better job prospects.

Supt. Brad Volkman says the big drop could mean a “significant” staff reduction as the division grapples with less government funding, a $1.3 million deficit and a reserve fund that’s almost dried up.

Volkman says in past years, trustees have used their reserve to spend more than it’s received, but that’s changed and trustees must produce a balanced budget for next year.

He says all they can hope for now is a turnaround in the economy.

The district will also look at reducing hours spent on building maintenance, but expects no changes in existing programming or class sizes.

Volkman said personnel cuts would involve certified and non-certified staff across the division.

“When you have fewer students, you have less funding. The logic, as well, is that fewer students require less staffing,” he said. “It will be significant — much more than we hoped for or expected, that’s for sure.”

He said when the economy eventually improves, families will move in and business will pick up.

“We’ve just got to ride through this, do the best we can and be responsible with the funding we get.”

The division has 19 schools and employs more than 650 full-time and part-time staff, including 319 teachers and 350 support, maintenance, IT specialists and bus-driving staff.

It serves the communities of Rocky Mountain House, Drayton Valley, Caroline, Leslieville, Condor and Breton.

(CKGY, The Canadian Press)

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version included the world “public” in the name of the school division.