Edmonton's Catholic schools are laying off more than 700 employees

Apr 16 2020, 12:19 pm

The Edmonton Catholic School Division began issuing layoff notices Thursday to the 708 employees it’s temporarily cutting loose because of a reduction in provincial funding tied to COVID-19 school closures.

The layoffs primarily impact staff members who aren’t interacting in-person with students as usual now that classes are happening online. Educational assistants account for 479 of the cut positions, the division said in a news release Thursday.

Behavioural therapists, speech language therapists, and occupational therapists, media resources support staff, administrative staff, nurses, psychologists, fitness instructors, youth coordinators, and instructors in the areas of fine arts, second languages, and career technology services are also being let go.

“These employees are extremely valued and it is very difficult to issue layoff notices due to a provincial government reduction in funding,” board chair Laura Thibert said. “The Board’s expectation is that Alberta Education will restore funding as soon as classes resume.”

The layoffs take effect on April 30, 2020. Laid-off employees will still have access to their health benefits until August 31, 2020. In the meantime, the school board is encouraging them to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

On March 28, the provincial government reduced funding to school divisions, hoping they’d be able to streamline now that students are not in school because of the viral pandemic.

According to the Edmonton Catholic School Division, those cuts amounted to $5.7 million less for their board.

These coronavirus-related layoffs coincide with the end of the federal Jordan’s Principle grant, an initiative helping Indigenous students. In Edmonton’s Catholic schools, 90 employees were funded through this grant. They’re included in the 708 total layoffs.

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