Kitimat City High has lost their Community LINK worker as the Kitimat Child Development Centre dealt with reduced LINK funding this year.
Coast Mountains School District Chair Art Erasmus said that the district receives a certain amount of money for LINK programs but this year they received far more requests for the funding than was available.
The Kitimat Child Development Centre (CDC) is contracted for some services in the Kitimat area and Erasmus said they received $110,000 this year in LINK funds, with another $40,000 going directly to the schools from the district for related programming.
But that amount is down $80,000 for the CDC, the Centre said in a press statement.
LINK stands for Learning Includes Nutrition Knowledge, and is used both for food programs and for assisting vulnerable students.
Erasmus said that demand for LINK funding last year was almost entirely equal with the supply of money they received from the government, but demand went up for 2012 while money went down. Last year, $750,000 was available with $730,000 in requests. This year they had $1.2 million in requests for only $600,000 available.
“So last year we could meet just about everything. This year we could meet half of what was requested,” he said.
The CDC said in their statement that the reduction in LINK services was made with input from their Community Oversight Committee. There will be coverage for both elementary schools and Mount Elizabeth Middle Secondary School this year.
“This reduction in coverage is very concerning as vulnerable youth are affected by another service cut,” the CDC said. “The LINK program in Kitimat employs social workers to work collaboratively within the schools supporting students and families so student success at school is enhanced.”
The loss will be felt among the student body at Kitimat City High, says principal Sheila McInnis. Particularly as the high school has felt a series of cuts over the past couple of years; she said hours have been cut to their rehabilitation workers, they lost a full time teacher a year ago, administration time has been cut back and a district counsellor position has also been lost.
“Having the Community Link worker really helped fill some of those voids,” said McInnis.
While adults in the school will adjust to not having the worker, she said it will be a drastic change to the students.
“The adults will adjust. It’s the children who’ll feel the loss of having that connection,” she said.
City High’s LINK worker was Sandy Correia, who said her role covered a wide range of subjects, from connecting students to the resources they needed (for example mental health and addictions counsellors and doctors) and would follow through to make sure students made those appointments.
She also led groups that taught lessons such as how to rent apartments and how to deal with crises at home while allowing them to stay in class.
“The point was for them to stay in school, not just give up because everything else is falling apart,” said Correia.
With the position now gone, she worries about the students she’s leaving behind.
“I worry about them dropping out, not having that connection to the school,” she said. “I worry they won’t get there in the morning, or they won’t be able to get their work done, they just won’t go to school because there’s no one making sure that they’re doing all that.”
She said that, in one capacity or another, she dealt with nearly every student who attended Kitimat City High, which is currently 45.
The highlight of her job would be seeing a student from the start of their education all the way to graduation.
“It was a challenging job but it was a job that I loved.”