THUNDER BAY -- The director of education at Lakehead Public Schools says declining enrolment is the main reason the board is cutting 17 teaching positions and an undetermined number of support staff.
Ian MacRae on Thursday said the trend is more noticeable at the board’s four secondary schools, said he’s hoping most of the job losses can be realized through attrition – retirements and leaves of absences – rather than layoffs.
About 400 fewer students are expected in classrooms come September.
MacRae stressed students shouldn’t notice any difference next fall when they return to the classroom.
“There are fewer students and they won’t really see the impact in terms of numbers. We’ll still be offering the breadth of programming, both in the classroom and academic programming, technical programming and extra-curricular activities will continue as such,” MacRae said.
The cuts hit everywhere, from the number of vice-principals the schools employ in local high schools to support staff in classrooms to office staff.
MacRae pointed to Hammarskjold as an example of a school facing lower student numbers, saying five years ago about 1,200 students were enrolled.
“It’s now down around 750 or 800,” he said. “That is a significant change.”
The board isn’t considering closing down another high school. In the past decade they’ve shuttered Port Arthur Collegiate Institute, Fort William Collegiate Institute and Hillcrest High School, opening Superior Collegiate Vocational institute in 2009.
The board at present operates four high schools in Thunder Bay.
“I don’t anticipate that number to change in the near future,” said MacRae, named to his position last month.
The story is a similar one at the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board.
Pino Tassone, said they’ve eliminated a similar number of staffing positions, but through attrition, have managed not to have to lay anyone off that was planning to return in the fall.
“As well, we did some restructuring,” Tassone said, indicating support staff would see changes to their duties to spread out the workload to make up for less staff.
Tassone said the declining enrolment, particularly at the high school level where there were 120 fewer students this past school year – there were 70 fewer elementary students attending Catholic board schools – does not come as a surprise.
“It’s something that’s been projected. Obviously the numbers aren’t there. For the most part, people are having smaller families, whether one or two (kids),” he said. “We’ve projected this for a long period of time and we knew there would be a decline.”
The numbers were actually lower than projected, he said.
Tassone added he expects numbers will continue to drop slightly over the next few years, but he’s hoping after that it will plateau.