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WAINWRIGHT – Support staff at the Buffalo Trail School Division are warning parents to expect reduced staffing levels for teaching assistants, librarians, and other staff.

Margaret Templeton, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1606, says staff have been told to expect fewer hours next year due to budget cuts.

Templeton said she expects teaching assistants, who are assigned to special needs children, to lose about 40 minutes per day. As a librarian herself, Templeton is expecting her hours to be cut almost in half.

There is going to be a drastic reduction in the level of services schools will be providing,” said Templeton. “We will be down to bare bones. I’m afraid that schools will look more like ‘kid warehouses’ than places of learning.”

Templeton says these cuts are on top of staff cutbacks implemented already in September and December. Templeton’s own hours as a librarian have gone from 1,330 last year to 1,000 this year. She expects them to be reduced to 530 next year.

For teaching assistants, hours went from 1,400 last year to 1,200 this year, with an expected workload of about 1,075 next year. “That means that between last year and next, teaching assistants have lost almost 1 hour and forty-five minutes for every teaching day,” said Templeton.

The work is still there, enrolment has not dramatically changed,” said Templeton. “The school division is short changing our children.”

CUPE Alberta President D’Arcy Lanovaz said the situation in Buffalo Trail is not unique. “Across the province, school boards are feeling the squeeze as the province funds teachers but forgets about the other people who make schools run.”

The Klein government has learned that directing funds to teachers is politically sexy. It reduces official class sizes and makes the government look good,” said Lanovaz. “But when they reduce the size of a class room at the same time as they reduce support to children, it’s not progress.”

Teaching assistants, secretaries, custodians, maintenance personnel and others all contribute to better schools and stronger communities,” said Lanovaz.