School District 54 has affirmed its policy of providing extra supports for Houston school students by providing additional monies in its budget for the next school year.
More Houston students, as a percentage of the school population in Houston, are considered vulnerable on a number of fronts compared to schools elsewhere in the district.
That vulnerability comes from the district’s own assessment which matches provincial data and extends past educational factors to include food.
“Additional supports for Houston schools comes in the form of teacher or special education staffing and more support staff,” said district secretary-treasurer Dave Margerm.
“This helps to reduce class sizes or allows for greater teacher and support staff intervention.”
The district’s draft budget for 2022-2023, was posted to the its website several weeks ago as part of the public consultation phase and was presented by district officials at the school board’s May 24 meeting in Houston.
As outlined by Margerm, in approximate amounts, there’s an additional $80,000 in teaching time, $24,000 for special education teaching time and $48,000 for special education assistants and food programs for Houston students.
At the same time, Houston Secondary’s foyer canteen is being redone as part of a building envelope upgrade.
“This will help foods programs for vulnerable students,” Margerm said.
District officials have been reporting regularly of increases in food program demand within the student population, including having the district send home food packages with students.
All three Houston public schools have active food programs involving breakfast and lunch.
This year, said district superintendent Michael McDiarmid, the Twain Sullivan and Houston Secondary breakfast and lunch program serves approximately 150 meals a day.
Two-thirds of the the schools’ students are in real need of the food service, he added.
Approximately 40 food hampers are sent home each week.
The school district will aid food programs at individual schools depending upon the school and demand.
“Most district funding supporting food for students break fast and lunch programs are provided through community donations, school accounts and/or revenues generated from selling food,” said Margerm.
Silverthorne Elementary, for example, holds regular fundraising activities. One of its mainstays is through Buy Low Foods in which the store provides the school with $10 for every $100 gift card it sells.
And in 2021 the school received a $5,000 pandemic support grant to help finance the start of its food program when school resumed last September.