Saskatoon Catholic schools to cut Kindergarten and increase fees

Saskatoon’s Catholic school division is planning a number of cuts and will increase fees for parents amid a funding shortfall.

Greater Saskatoon Catholic School (GSCS) said it would cut full-day Kindergarten from 10 schools to two, reduce bus routes, and eliminate teacher librarian positions to deliver a balanced budget for the upcoming school year.

Lunchroom supervision fees will also see a hike, from $70 to $100 per student per year, capped at $200 per family.

A high school lunch supervision fee of $25 per student will also be introduced

In a letter to parents and caregivers, the division said schools in Saskatchewan are not benefiting from “the province’s good financial fortune.”

While the Saskatchewan government’s 2023-24 budget projects a $1 billion surplus, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and other school divisions in the province have argued that education spending was increased by less than one percent.

Following criticism over his government’s education spending plan, Premier Scott Moe said more funding could be coming to schools.

GCSs said while it was “encouraged” by Moe’s words, details have been scarce.

“There is no detail on how much money will be provided nor when it will be given to school divisions. This uncertainty makes our planning very difficult,” the letter says.

With school divisions facing budget shortfalls last year, the government provided a late-fall cash injection. However, the GSCS letter said it can’t delay its budget planning for the year.

“We must submit a balanced budget to the Ministry of Education before June 30, 2023. We do not have the luxury to wait until the fall for the possibility of additional funding. We must make difficult decisions now.”

According to the letter, the division is “receiving less money, on a per-student basis” than in 2015-16.

“If we were to maintain the same level of supports and programming in 2023-24 that we have now, we would run a $1.5 million deficit,” the letter says.

The letter, co-signed by board chair Diane Boyko and education director Fran├žois Rivard, closes by saying “children and youth deserve better.”

“As a board, we will continue to advocate for an investment in education,” the letter says.

In a statement emailed to CTV News Tuesday afternoon, the Ministry of Education reiterated the government’s pledge to provide a funding top-up.

The ministry said it’s now planning to extend the deadline for school divisions to draw up their 2023-24 budgets.

“School divisions will be notified in the coming weeks of the additional funding and provided with additional time to prepare their 2023-24 budgets,” the statement said.