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Calgary Board of Education reverses teacher layoffs while Catholic board hikes school bus fees

CBE reverses layoffs but is increasing school bus fees
WATCH: The Calgary Board of Education met on Tuesday to discuss its budget. As Gil Tucker reports, 317 temporary positions were saved until the end of the school year but the cost of student transportation will be going up for parents.

The Calgary Board of Education will no longer be laying off 317 temporary teachers. According to a budget update agenda dated Dec. 10 and sent to trustees, the board plans to re-allocate school maintenance money announced on Dec. 3.

READ MORE: Calgary Board of Education to cut 300 temporary teachers amid $32M shortfall

Last week, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange provided a one-time exception on annual maintenance renewal funding. It’s a decision allowing school boards to use the $15 million for needs beyond just maintenance. In this case, a portion of the funds will be used to rescind the termination notices.

In the report, Supt. Christopher Usih stated the staff will return to schools for the rest of the school year. Trustees will be discussing this development at a meeting Dec. 10, 2019.

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It was also revealed the remaining funds from that $15 million will be used to moderate the impact of fee increases and eliminate the need for changes related to student transportation for the 2019-20 school year.

Calgary Board of Education reverses teacher layoffs while Catholic board hikes school bus fees
Calgary Board of Education reverses teacher layoffs while Catholic board hikes school bus fees

READ MORE: Alberta education minister may force CBE to reverse teacher layoffs

But the education minister expressed some disappointment. LaGrange’s press secretary, Colin Aitchison, released this statement to Global News:

“While we are pleased that the CBE is considering rescinding the layoff notices, this reversal is a clear example of their failed attempt to use our teachers and our kids’ education as a political tool,” Aitchison wrote.

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“Had CBE taken Minister LaGrange up on her offer to have Alberta Education assist in finding efficiencies in their operating budget, we are certain that this could have been avoided in the first place. Instead, the board’s unnecessary actions caused significant stress on the families of the 317 teachers and their students.”

The Alberta government confirmed Tuesday is still moving ahead with a financial audit and governance review of the Calgary Board of Education.

Calgary Board of Education to cut 300 temporary teachers
Calgary Board of Education to cut 300 temporary teachers

This all comes as bus fees are going up for families of students in the Calgary Catholic school district.

Advocates for public education say this is an unfortunate development for parents already struggling. Barbara Silva with Support our Students Alberta (SOS) said this is especially tough news right before the holidays.

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READ MORE: Edmonton Public Schools to consider hiking bus fees after UCP budget results in funding shortfall

“This is not the only expense going to be incurred. There’s higher transportation costs and noon supervision, there’s field trips and fundraising,” Silva said.

“This is one line in a long list of putting the burden on families.”

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Starting Jan. 6, 2020, transportation fees will go up by $147 per student.

Felicia Zuniga, with the Calgary Catholic School District, said the increased fees also come with decreased rebates.

“Our district will receive approximately $2.35 million less in transportation funding that what we expected,” Zuniga said. “The district has decided to increase transportation fees and decrease Calgary Transit bus pass rebates in an effort to recover 60 per cent of that funding loss.”