Students, teachers and parents protested for nearly two months against proposed cuts to SD61 music programs. (Black Press Media file photo)

Students, teachers and parents protested for nearly two months against proposed cuts to SD61 music programs. (Black Press Media file photo)

SD61 budget approved, majority of music programs saved

Cuts reduced from $7 million to $4.7 million using projected surplus

The Greater Victoria School District approved its much-anticipated budget Thursday night, with many cuts, but also several saves.

The biggest change by far, was a reversal on the district’s original proposal to eliminate nearly all elementary and middle school music programs. Instead of the initial $1.5 million, only $80,000 (five per cent) of the programs’ budget will be cut. So, board chair Jordan Watters said, all the key programs – band, strings, choir, ukelele, drumming – will remain, but there may be slightly fewer options – say, show choir, for example.

READ ALSO: Students protest proposed cuts to SD61 music programs

Other items of community concern that were saved are the reading recovery program, education assistants and youth and family counsellors. In addition, the board followed through on its decision to inject a further $427,000 into K-5 literacy.

In total, the district reduced cuts from the original $7 million to $4.7 million, using projected surplus dollars.

“The trade off is we’ve depleted our reserve to under a million dollars,” Watters said.

This is the opposite of what the district set out to do this year when it was hoping to change its accounting practices to rely less on unknown surplus amounts and work more within its means. But, Watters said, they heard the community loud and clear and the board decided a pandemic year was not the time for big decisions.

“We have in some ways kicked the can down the road,” she said, noting that next year the board will be dealing with the same problems. The board plans to make some changes to its next budget process though, including involving the community more.

At the end of September, Watters said they will launch a series of advisory tables.

READ ALSO: ‘Pattern of systemic racism’: SD61 Indigenous committee member resigns, calls for change

And, the board set aside a small fund to address reconciliation and anti-racism. Watters said they haven’t determined exactly how the $50,000 will be used, but it will likely go to professional development and training. The district received considerable criticism during its budget process for its approach to Indigenous learners, prompting the resignation of an Indigenous committee member and a letter from the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association calling out a pattern of colonial thinking.

With the lingering, two-decade-long issue of public education being critically underfunded, the board chair said, it’ll be imperative for the province to step up as schools take on more responsibilities – such as ensuring access to youth mental health programs.

“There has been a growing gap between the needs of our students and the funding coming in,” Watters said. “If we want all our students to achieve their full potential, we need to provide the conditions for success.”

READ: Hot days have Greater Victoria strawberry growers hastily picking to meet demand


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

EducationGreater Victoriasd61

Just Posted

Saanich Volunteer Services Society volunteers head out to deliver this week’s meals to local seniors. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
VIDEO: Weekly meal deliveries help brighten the day for Saanich seniors

Seniors are delivered nutritional meals by a group of volunteers every Wednesday

Kidspace, which took over the YMCA-YWCA childcare centre at Eagle Creek Village, plans to reopen the Y’s fitness centre as the Eagle Creek Athletic Club in September. (Photo courtesy of Kidpsace)
Former Y fitness centre in View Royal aims to reopen in September

Kidspace taking over both the gym and the childcare facility at Eagle Creek Village

Cheyenne, six, Savannah, three, and Jeremiah Sinclair, 8, were out on walk with their mother on June 4 when they discovered the first of several hundred fish that died after bleach leaked into Reay Creek. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Spill in Sidney’s Reay Creek turns into ecological lesson for local children

Federal-provincial investigation ongoing into what appears to be a bleach spill

Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics B.C. kicks off with a run at Swan Lake on June 6. The virtual fundraiser runs until June 20. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Torch run seeks to scorch previous fundraiser, targets $75,000 for Special Olympics

Global movement shoots for 40,000 km in honour of the 40th anniversary

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read