The Renfrew County Catholic District School Board has approved the 2023-2024 budget with a focus on early reading interventions and screening tools, math achievement action plans, transitions and de-streaming support, as well as pathways and entrepreneurship opportunities for students. The Board is pleased to present a balanced budget for 2023-2024.
As always, while setting the 2023-2024 budget, the Board ensured that resources were allocated to facilitate their mission: We are an inclusive Catholic learning community called to love unconditionally and educate the hearts and minds in the way of Christ.
With this budget, RCCDSB is working on enhancing areas to assist students in achieving their highest academic potential, while taking care of their mental well-being and most importantly, their spiritual journey towards Christ. Last year, the Board reanimated their mission and vision, and the 2023-2024 school year budget aligns with the RCCDSB goals by enhancing opportunities for all students.
The 2023-2024 school year theme is: As a community of believers, we strive to instill a desire for life-long learning and a pursuit of excellence. This theme and a focus on the “Universal Design for Learning ” will guide the RCCDSB throughout the 2023 – 2024 school year.
The budget of $84.5 million includes several strategies to address the needs of students. RCCDSB has many plans in place to guide them in reaching their goals, some of these include the Learning Technologies Plan, the Mental Health and Wellness Plan, the Indigenous Education Plan, Equity Action Plan, as well as our Special Education Plan. Some of the key priorities for the 2023-2024 school year include Indigenous Education, Early Intervention Math Supports for students with special education needs (K-8), continued investments in Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM), Summer Learning Programs (SLP), Student Pathways, de-streaming, early interventions and screening for reading, and other investments to support vulnerable students.
In the 2023-2024 school year, one of the many focus areas is early reading interventions and screening tools for students in year 2 of kindergarten up to grade 2. In response to the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Right to Read, students will be screened for reading using evidence-based tools. There will be $112,600 dedicated to licensing for early reading interventions, $34,800 for early reading enhancements, and $110,200 into professional assessments and reading. In addition, the Board has committed $264,700 for education staff to assist with reading interventions. This will help RCCDSB educators ensure students who require further support in reading are identified early and supported within the classroom.
Schools across RCCDSB will also be focusing on early intervention Math Support for students with special education needs (Grades K-8) as well as implementing the new Ministry Math Achievement Action Plan. Overall, the Board has dedicated $11.7 million to special education across RCCDSB. Although the board is spending more on special education in relation to provincial funding, they have had to reduce the size of the annual special education deficit to achieve a balanced budget. RCCDSB continues to advocate for the Government of Ontario to invest more into special education and educational support workers.
They will also invest $216,100 in staffing to support students throughout de-streaming and their transition to high school. This will include a de-streaming implementation support program to assist grade 8 students in their transition to a de-streamed grade 9 program, support grade 9 students to be successful in the classroom and prepare students for grade 10 and their senior program.
Mental health and wellness will remain a priority for the 2023-2024 budget as a key condition for students to thrive, with $729,346 dedicated to this area. The board has allocated these funds to continue to support students. They have also invested in tier 1 mental health and well-being strategies for the classroom that includes training for teachers.
Additionally, the RCCDSB has invested funds toward supporting vulnerable students, including youth at risk, to stay in school, graduate and succeed. This is important and aligns with the Board’s theme of instilling a desire for lifelong learning and a pursuit of excellence.
With $577,996 focused on Indigenous education, the Board’s Indigenous Graduation Coach will continue to assist students in their studies and help support secondary students as they transition from school to full-time employment or secondary education. The RCCDSB has also invested in hiring a new Indigenous Student Success and Cultural Support worker. The team currently has an Indigenous Graduation Coach and an Indigenous Education Coordinator within the Board, and this additional support will benefit Indigenous students throughout the RCCDSB.
For renovations within the schools, RCCDSB is continuing to optimize air quality and improve ventilation and filtration, benefiting students and staff. An example of these improvements is the upgraded HVAC system being installed at St. Andrew’s Catholic School in Killaloe. In addition, they have invested in new windows and lights in some of the schools that require updates. A Capital project has been underway as the addition to St. Joseph’s High School and the demolition and reconstruction of St. Thomas the Apostle began in early spring 2023. The total investment for operations and maintenance is $8.3 million.
Recently, the Ministry of Education released a new transportation funding model for the upcoming school year. The Ministry has developed common reference standards including walk distances and optimal number of vehicles to encourage consistency and improve equitable access to student transportation.
In particular, the Board is concerned that the Ministry walk distances are not practical for the rural geography in Renfrew County. Another area of concern is the lack of funding for students including some of the most rural and special needs students who require the use of vans to commute to and from school.
Costs previously funded outside the school board transportation funding such as driver recruitment and retention bonus and driver training have been transferred into the allocation for 23/24. The Board will be reviewing the details and working with the Renfrew County Joint Transportation Consortium to further understand how transportation services will be impacted in the coming years.
As a Catholic Board, it is important to incorporate faith into everything we do at the RCCDSB. To enhance Catholic Education and answer the Bishop’s call to Evangelization, the Board will focus on adult faith formation and has allocated funds to sponsor religious education qualifications for staff.
Bob Schreader, Chair of the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board states: “We are confident that this budget will help the Board reach its goals and animate our mission and theme for the school year. As always, we have prioritized the needs of RCCDSB students and provided funding in areas that need support. We look forward to what the next school year will bring.”