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Simcoe School Board approves 2020-2021 budget

July 30, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Enhanced mental health supports start this fall 

The Simcoe County District School Board’s 2020-2021 Budget approval came much later than usual this year, as the Ministry of Education was slow to release information needed to create accurate spending projections.

Nonetheless, the board approved its $617 million budget during a special meeting on July 7, which includes an increase of 2.5 full time positions for mental health staff.

In light of the global pandemic, mental health has become a greater concern among students, according to the Simcoe School Board’s chairperson Jodi Lloyd.

“We’re pleased to see there will be enhanced mental health supports, we’ll be able to put in additional resources to support students in the transition that will take place over the next year, transitioning back to school, through COVID-19,” she noted.

“Many of our students have struggles related to the self isolation, the distance from their peers and their school, so we’re very pleased that those additional resources have been allocated to support our students through the process.”

Lloyd said supporting students and families with their mental health is a top priority for the Board as COVID-19 has “no clear end in sight.”

“It will be a long, ongoing process I believe, so we’ve got additional resources,” she reasoned. “Could always use more – yes, but we’re pleased to see that we have additional resources to support our students.”

The July 7 meeting where the budget was passed didn’t have very much debate, as the preliminary budget that was created by the Simcoe board in May mirrored much of what was presented.

“Last night was just minor tweaking based upon the technical papers and then the final approval,” said Lloyd following the board’s budget meeting.

“Staff were very accurate in their projections,” she said.

Lloyd noted that this year’s budget was relatively status quo, without any significant changes which is good news for the board.

“We’d always like to see more or additional funding but there’s been no reductions of staffing or programs – any of those difficult decisions,” Lloyd said.

With the onset of COVID-19, uncertainty is a familiar feeling for the school board’s staff and trustees, especially with the learning format for this September remaining a mystery.

Fortunately, through a conservative fiscal policy over the last several years, Lloyd said Simcoe’s public schools are being set up for success in 2020-21 despite challenges caused by the pandemic.

“Our board going into this was in a good position financially, so that did make it a little easier, we weren’t facing significant deficits, we weren’t facing significant challenges,” Lloyd explained.

“We as a board have been very conservative in our spending in the last five to 10 years, we’ve also been very proactive in dealing with our excess capacity in our schools and addressing the need for school closures.”

Lloyd told the Times school closures and consolidations are tough decisions and aren’t always well-received by the public but they are decisions that need to be made when looking ahead into the future.

Meanwhile, the crafting of this year’s budget has posed more challenges than usual for the board, due to the delayed release of information from the government.

“We normally try to get our budget submitted by the end of May, even though the end of June is the requirement, so for us to be doing it in July, it’s significantly later than what our normal process is,” Lloyd noted.

“It’s a relief to have it done, especially because we have many things on the go right now with planning for the… [new] math curriculum, so it was nice to get this accomplishment done and switch to the other tasks at hand.”

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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