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One area employer, 1,068 temporary layoffs

Chinook’s Edge School Division outlines cutback plans
MVT stock school bus
Nearly 90 Chinook's Edge School Division bus drivers will be laid off in the coming days while 981 educational assistants, support and casual staff and substitute teachers have either already been laid off or will be on June 1. File photo/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – Chinook’s Edge School Division has outlined its plans to address a $2.2 million funding allocation cutback announced by the provincial government on March 28.

The 11,000-student division is seeing funding reduced by $1.47 million for instruction and $756,000 from transportation for May and June as part of the province’s COVID-19 response plans.

The cutbacks have prompted the division to temporarily reduce educational assistants, hourly support staff, substitute teachers, and bus drivers.

About 1,000 positions across the division will be impacted by the cutbacks.

A total of 456 educational assistants and hourly support staff will be laid off on June 1, which superintendent Kurt Sacher says will allow those workers to continue to serve students until that time.

A total of 525 substitute teachers and casual staff are laid off immediately and will brought back when normal operations resume, without the need to re-apply for the jobs, he said.

A total of 87 bus drivers will be laid off effective April 14.

All Chinook’s Edge employees who currently have benefits will have those benefit premiums paid by the division during the temporary layoffs, he said.

The division also plans to expedite all necessary documentation required to access federal support through the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit or employment insurance for all staff impacted by temporary layoffs, he said.

Custodial staff in the division are not impacted by the funding cutbacks and remain on the job, he said.

“We understand these are difficult times for the provincial government,” said Sacher. “We are grateful that the minister of education respects board autonomy and allows us to make decisions in our school division that respect our context.

“We are very appreciative that we were able to make decisions moving forward that were in the best interest of our students and staff.”

On March 28, the province said it was reallocating funding to reflect the cost of at-home learning by students during the pandemic. The move includes reductions in funding for substitute teachers, educational assistance and transportation.

“I want to stress that this is a temporary arrangement as schools focus on at-home learning,” said education minister Adriana LaGrange.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) says 25,000 education worker jobs are being impacted province-wide.

“Teachers stand in solidarity with support staff and substitute teachers affected by this disappointing decision,” said Jason Schilling, president of the ATA, which has 46,000 members.

The opposition NDP called the government’s move “cowardly, cold-hearted, dishonest and irresponsible.”

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Dan Singleton

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