A few dozen students and parents gathered outside Lansdowne Middle School April 14 to protest proposed budget cuts to SD61 music programs. From left to right: Lyra Gaudin, Cleo Bateman, Abby Farish, Brigitte Peters, Enid Gaudin, Des Farish. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

A few dozen students and parents gathered outside Lansdowne Middle School April 14 to protest proposed budget cuts to SD61 music programs. From left to right: Lyra Gaudin, Cleo Bateman, Abby Farish, Brigitte Peters, Enid Gaudin, Des Farish. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

SD61’s proposed $7 million cuts threaten equity and inclusion, say parents, teachers

Music classes, inclusion services, reading programs on the line

Parents, teachers and students were horrified to learn last week of a proposed $7 million cut to the Greater Victoria School District that would eliminate music programs and cut supports for elementary and middle school students requiring alternative education plans.

On the line, critics say, are equity and inclusion.

Speaking during a special board meeting Tuesday night, music teacher Cindy Romphf said the elimination of music programs – currently marked as a $1,566,360 cut – would affect over 2,500 middle and 600 elementary school students from a variety of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

“Music classes give them the safety to be vulnerable, to take risks and to explore personal expression,” she said.

It’s something parent Cheryl McKinnon can attest to. Also presenting at the meeting, McKinnon shared how her child has struggled with anxiety and depression from years of bullying. Music classes were the only place they felt safe, she said.

“When they walked into a music room, a switch turned on. Their worries were left at the door,” McKinnon said. “There’s no room for anything else when music fills your soul this way.”

READ ALSO: Students protest proposed cuts to SD61 music programs

Musical training is also something many families can’t afford outside of school, parent Nevin Thompson pointed out speaking with Black Press Media.

“By taking it away you’re making it ‘pay to play’,” he said. “Only affluent families will have the opportunity.”

One of his sons attends the University of Victoria’s School of Music, having gotten his start at the middle school music program.

Thompson also added that he and many other parents have volunteered hundreds of hours over the years to fundraise for the music programs and provide kids in need with instruments.

“If you close the program, what happens to all the hard work our community has done?” he asked. A Change.org petition against the music program cuts had over 12,000 signatures as of midday Wednesday.

The cuts stretch far further though. Another area of public worry has been $1,078,492 in proposed cuts to education assistants and gifted teacher supports.

Tracy Humphreys, chair and executive director at the BCEdAccess Society, said when there aren’t enough supports, kids who require them will be told they can’t attend school full time.

READ ALSO: ‘Neither rare nor unusual’: 3,600 cases of students with disabilities excluded in B.C.

They have the right to attend full time, but Humphreys said parents don’t always know this and there is a complaint process they must go through to rectify the issue.

Speaking Tuesday, SD61 secretary-treasurer Kim Morris said education assistants will be adjusted according to student needs.

Cuts to Community LINK – which provides food programs, counselling and supports – and the Reading Recovery program coordinator also threaten more vulnerable students.

But, as Morris and superintendant Shelley Green told the board of trustees, regardless of where the cuts come from they have to happen.

Morris said the $7,143,813 deficit comes from a combination of increased expenses – collective agreement, wages, benefits and utilities – and decreased revenue – lower enrolment and third party rentals. In 2021, Morris said, the district lost 50 per cent of its international enrolment. It hopes to have 75 per cent by 2022.

Why though, is it necessary to balance the budget this year, Braefoot Elementary Parents Advisory Committee member Noelle Davis asked in the meeting. If, she said, the losses in revenue are a result of the pandemic, they should be recovered in years to come.

“We should not be removing long-term programs to solve short-term problems,” Davis said.

People interested in weighing in can send written or emailed submissions to the board and attend the public information session on April 21. A survey will also be made available following the information session.

The full draft budget can be read at sd61.bc.ca.

READ ALSO: Privacy concerns keep COVID-19 cases at University of Victoria off the record

Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

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


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oak Bay Police Department briefs for May 3 to 9. (Black Press Media file photo)
Copper wire stolen after Oak Bay construction site targeted twice by thieves

Cop briefs include pair of impounded cars, swiped back medication

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

Colwood council voted to give businesses less of a cut than planned and will look for more cuts this week. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood council gets back to work after voting against 9.3% property tax hike

Emergency meetings this week will find more cuts, finalize tax plan by Friday deadline

A man was arrested after allegedly threatening people downtown on May 10 while brandishing this knife. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Man armed with a knife arrested for allegedly threatening people in downtown Victoria

Officers used de-escalation techniques during afternoon arrest

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old bike rider on Vancouver Island already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Most Read