By Lethbridge Herald on April 8, 2020.
The Lethbridge School Division was able to provide a rare bright spot for some classroom support staff by rescinding their layoff notices, which had been set to kick in at the end of April.
Superintendent Cheryl Gilmore said on Wednesday that a deeper dive into the school division’s finances over the past few days has allowed LSD to retain an additional 120 staff who provide frontline student supports to those with complex needs.
“I feel wonderful that we have 120 people who won’t have to transition to temporary layoff at the end of April,” said Gilmore. “We have got 91 educational assistants staying on. We have nine advanced education individuals. We have our First Nations Metis Inuit liaison staff coming back, and some of our administrative support staff in our secondary schools.”
The savings found in the school division’s budget come from the province allowing for additional funding to retain laid off employees’ benefits, savings found from fewer CPP and EI benefit payments, and some surplus funds found in PUF (Program Unit) Funding.
“Our priorities were assistants that could work directly with those students and families using more direct technologies or needing assistance in other ways (outside of standard online learning),” explained Gilmore.
Gilmore said the school division could have made other choices and went ahead with the layoffs and used those savings to make up for previous provincial cuts for next year’s budget, but ultimately felt keeping more people on the payroll during this challenging time was the right thing to do both for those employees and for the students with complex needs they will be helping.
“We needed to make sure all the needs of our students were met to the best of our ability given the context,” she said. “Certainly, we have what I would consider to be a moral imperative to take the money we do have left, and not save money from that but make sure we are using the money to hire the people back to meet those student needs.”
Gilmore was happy to bring back 120 staff members who had previously been given layoff notices, but acknowledged there were many more she couldn’t.
“We have to remember we still have about 300 people in temporary layoff,” she said. “This has been very hard. The initial layoff notices and communication I gave to staff was very difficult. We are talking about people and their lives, and their families, and their livelihoods; so that’s incredibly difficult especially for those who we are not able to cancel their layoff notices. We are very hopeful those people can join us (again) soon.”
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