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St George’s Prep PTA sounds alarm over financing

St George’s Preparatory School (File photograph)

The PTA at St George’s Preparatory School has claimed that government underfunding at the school in recent years has left it financially vulnerable.

The PTA said in correspondence to parents of the school and shared with The Royal Gazette that a cumulative deficit of approximately $600,000 has piled up since 2019.

St George’s Prep has requested and received some supplemental funding in that time, bringing the deficit down by approximately $40,000.

The PTA statement, which copied in members of the school community including Gail Smith, the principal, and Garth Rothwell, who has supervision of the school’s board of trustees, said: “This year, we were at risk of not being able to meet our operating costs due to the year-on-year underfunding.

“This placed the school, certain staff and the trustees in an extremely vulnerable position.

“After the trustees held an emergency meeting with the PTA executive, we immediately contacted the ministry, advocating for the balance of the capitation request, which we received most of.

“For the 2024-25 fiscal year [April 1, 2024, to March 31, 2025] we have been underfunded again, which means next February … it is very likely our school community will find itself in the same position.”

The Government does not automatically cover the costs of St George’s Prep as an aided school.

Trustees must make an annual capitation grant application covering, but not limited to, Belco, two full-time salaries for the custodian and office administrator, landscaping and accounting. The Government automatically covers the salaries of all other staff.

The PTA added: “Maintained schools do not have to hire their own custodian, office administrator or accountant. Their building and grounds maintenance are also automatically covered.

“Additionally, aided-school status does not mean that an aided school is semi-private or private. These schools are still fully a part of the Bermuda public school system and thus fall under the remit of the ministry, whose responsibility it is to ensure programming is delivered effectively and healthily at their schools.

“Throughout the funding challenge, the trustees of Prep have demonstrated the utmost level of fiscal responsibility by cutting costs where possible and continuing to have their finances audited yearly.

“Cost-cutting measures have included no longer hiring a cleaning company to assist in the daily upkeep of the school, which now falls solely on [two staff members].”

The PTA encouraged parents to contact St George’s MPs Renée Ming, Kim Swan, Lovitta Foggo and Tinée Furbert over the matter, as well as David Burt, the Premier.

St George’s Prep is one of the schools slated for closure under the Government’s education reform plans.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Education said the agency contacted the St George's Prep Board yesterday.

The spokesman said the two bodies will meet “at the six-month mark of the fiscal year to review the budget and discuss any additional funding requirements."

The spokesman added:" Providing high-quality education and ensuring our schools have the necessary resources requires careful budget allocation for both aided and maintained school.”

The spokesman said the ministry “strive to meet all funding requests to the best of our ability.”

“It is common for aided schools to request additional funding as the school year progresses, typically six months or more into the fiscal year. These requests are evaluated upon submission.”

The spokesman said that in the 2023-24 school year, the total budgetary sum spent for St George's Prep amounted to $1.5 million.

The spokesman added: “Despite a slight reduction in the Prep student registration from 92 in 2023 to 88 students registered for the coming school year, the budget allocation for the school is $1.7 million in 2024-25.”

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Published June 20, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated June 20, 2024 at 7:59 am)

St George’s Prep PTA sounds alarm over financing

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