Calgary Board of Education speech language pathologists facing layoffs

Some speech language pathologists and SLP assistants who work for the Calgary Board of Education are receiving layoff notices.

In April, the Calgary Board of Education delivered temporary layoff notices to about 1,900 staff. The CBE said it was a result of a $21-million reduction to the school board’s budget by the provincial government due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speech language pathologist Kirsten Kelly was a temporary employee with the school board. She was informed of early termination of her contract in April.

“It’s pretty frustrating.

“We are in a helping profession and we want to make a difference and it’s heartbreaking to know that our services are reduced.”

This spring, the K to 12 provincial education funding model was updated in Alberta.

The CBE said a change in provincial grants impacted money for Program Unit Funding, which supports children with a severe disability or delay.

Due to those changes, the school board said it has provided notice to 25 speech language pathologists and speech language assistants who have been identified for possible layoffs.

“This budget year, Alberta Education introduced a new funding model. A number of grants were added, eliminated or changed, meaning that funding is allocated in different ways to support student needs.

“In this case, the Regional Collaboration Services Delivery grant (RCSD) was removed and the CBE chose to use funds from its Alberta Education allocation to support a transition plan to ensure that students previously served by the RCSD funding continue to have supports necessary to succeed,” said a statement from the CBE on Tuesday.

Calgary education advocate Barbara Silva says students’ needs aren’t going to be met with the loss of the speech language pathologists.

“We are going to make it more difficult for teachers to meet the needs of their students. All we are doing really is delaying problems further and further down the road where it is more difficult to address these issues,” said Silva, a spokesperson for Support our Students.

A spokesperson for Alberta Education says all of the funding that used to flow to the Regional Collaboration Services Delivery grant remains in the education system.

Kirsten Kelly has since moved on to private practice, providing speech and language services.

“My career has been like a roller coaster of not knowing if I’m going to have a position or if I’m not going to have a position.

“It’s made me go into private practice because I know I can control a lot more things. But my heart goes out to the gap that may happen because of the lack of support and I’m worried about those children that can’t access support privately that will potentially get left behind,” said Kelly.

The CBE says it doesn’t have specific numbers of people who will be laid off. It is expected that nine of the employees will be hired into new roles.

“While we are trying to minimize the impact of these changes, it is important that we align our funding to the new provincial funding model,” said CBE in a statement to Global News.

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