The St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic School Division has issued layoff notes to 147 staff.
The move comes in the wake of the Government of Alberta’s decision to reduce the provincial education budget for the 2019-2020 school year in order to redirect funds towards fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
The layoffs are effective for the months of May and June. Employees impacted include educational assistants, family school liaison workers, librarians, custodians, as well as information and technology staff.
“It is with great difficulty that we announce this news. This decision is not one the Board of Trustees takes lightly, especially during what is already such a challenging time for our staff and families,” Michelle Lamer, school board chair, said in an April 21 statement announcing the layoffs.
“Each and every staff member of STAR Catholic is incredibly valued: as an individual, for the important work they do for our Division, and for the impact they have on our students. As always, we will work together to get through this as a team, guided by our steadfast commitment to student success.”
The St Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic School Division represents 12 schools that serve the communities of Beaumont, Drayton Valley, Lacombe, Leduc, Ponoka, and Wetaskiwin. The division serves more than 4,000 students.
The STAR Catholic School Division says the provincial budget changes translate to a cut of $566,000 in instructional funding for the months of May and June, and nearly $150,000 in transportation funding for the months of April, May, and June.
STAR Catholic says it will continue to fund health benefits for the permanent staff who have received notice of layoff.
Other school divisions have also issued temporary layoffs to staff.
The Edmonton Catholic School Division announced April 16 that it is temporarily laying off 708 staff in response to provincial government funding changes after classes were cancelled due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
And the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Division announced 116 support staff will be laid off from their current positions, effective April 30.
“We are disappointed that we must lay off these valuable staff members, who play important roles in supporting student learning and success – including during this temporary model of learning from home,” Joe Becigneul, board chair of Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools, said in a statement.
“This has not been an easy process, as each person is an integral member of our schools and our division. To be clear, these temporary reductions do not diminish the work our incredible staff does – each and every day – in any way.”
Superintendent David Keohane said: “It is important to understand that this is not forever All of our teachers, support staff, and division staff are essential to the continued success of our students.”
Keohane noted that the province has said it will restore funding once in-person classes resume.