Indigenous education programs have become an important aspect of the education curriculum offered in the Central Okanagan School District. (File photo)

Central Okanagan School District registers surplus for Indigenous student spending

COVID-19 event/activity cancellations creates $500,000 carryover for Indigenous education budget

COVID-19 has created an oddity in the Central Okanagan Public Schools Indigenous preliminary education 2021-22 budget.

The cancellation of planned events and activities, due to the pandemic, resulted in an estimated $500,000 holdover in funding from the 2020-21 budget.

Speaking to the Central Okanagan Board of Education finance and audit committee on Wednesday (April 20), school deputy superintendent Terry-Lee Beaudry described the surplus as “hugely significant” and not wanting to see it repeated in the upcoming school year.

“We try really hard every year not to have such a generous surplus and to spend the money on our students,” Beaudry said.

She said there is understanding among the advisory Indigenous Education Council about the COVID-driven surplus and the intent of the school district to repurpose that funding into staffing additions, land-based learning activities and other program enhancement agreements in the coming school year.

READ MORE: Rutland schools celebrate National Indigenous Day

A pathway going forward on the specifics of those objectives will be presented to the board following further consultation with the Indigenous Education Council.

For the 2020-21 school year, the ministry of education allocated $1,500 for each student self-identifying as Indigenous. For the 2021-22 school year, the ministry has increased that funding to $1,565 per student.

With an anticipated enrolment of 2,945 Indigenous students in Kindergarten to Grade 12, the school district will receive about $4,508,925 in targeted funding.

The graduation rate for Indigenous students in the Central Okanagan School District has continued to trend above the provincial average in recent years.

Back in 2001, only 31 per cent of the Indigenous students graduated. By 2019, that percentage had increased to 81 per cent.

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