Trustees of Cowichan Valley School District No. 79. Front row, from left: Barb DeGroot, Candace Spilsbury (chair), Joe Thorne. Back row: Randy Doman, Johanne Kemmler, Elizabeth Croft and Rob Hutchins. (Photo submitted)

Cowichan Valley School District finalizes $104.6-million budget

Less international students expected next year due to COVID-19

The Cowichan Valley School District passed a $104.6-million budget for the 2020-21 school year on June 22, although the district is facing some uncertainties for the year connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The international student program is expected to take a hit as most students will likely be staying in their home countries as the pandemic continues to grip the globe.

There are more than 200 international students registered for the current school year, and the district charges more than $14,000 each for tuition and other fees.

Each international student also pays an additional $8,500 to their home-stay family in the community.

RELATED STORY: SD79 FINALIZES $106.9-MILLION BUDGET FOR 2019-20

Candace Spilsbury, SD79 board chair, said the district is anticipating that approximately 140 international students will attend schools in SD79 next year, but it’s only an estimate and there is no way of telling at this stage how many will actually come to the Valley if the pandemic is still hampering travel around the globe..

“We’ve come to recognize that the international students program may not be as big a source of revenue as it has in the past,” she said.

“The federal government is working with other countries to try and retain the number of students we (and other school districts across the country) attracted before. But, regardless, a $104.6-million budget is still a healthy one for us.”

RELATED STORY: B.C. TO SUSPEND K-12 SCHOOLS INDEFINITELY DUE TO COVID-19

The budget also allows for increased absenteeism from staff due to COVID-19 concerns, and has more funding for cleaning and supplies for custodial staff.

Spilsbury said the pandemic and its impacts are unpredictable, and what the situation will be in September is currently unknown.

“We expect that there could be an increase in absenteeism because our staff are being very careful and if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, they are encouraged to not come in to work,” she said.

“We also have thorough cleaning requirements in our schools and there will be at least two cleanings a day in each school, with an additional deep cleaning each night.”

As well, the district plans to reduce 17 full-time equivalent teacher positions in the budget, but no layoffs are planned.

Spilsbury said the teacher reduction is also largely related to the health crisis, as there is less need for some instruction time if there are fewer international students in the district.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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