Warning letters were sent to 800 teachers yesterday by the Vancouver School Board to notify them of possible layoffs for the following school year.

This comes after the VSB forecast a deficit that could be as high as $36.3 million.

David Weir, communications manager for the VSB, said the 800 letters serve to “cast a wide net” for any worst-case scenarios. A final decision on cuts will be made in April, following the funding envelope the VSB receives from the B.C. government in mid-March.

Chris Harris, president of the Elementary Teachers Association, said if the provincial government doesn’t answer the school board’s request to increase funding, students’ schooling will suffer.

“Purely speculative, but if it’s at the high number, what the board has said could be the high end of the deficit, we’re looking at devastating, devastating cuts to every single school in Vancouver.”

Last year, the provincial government cut millions of dollars in school grants to deal with a $2.8-billion deficit of its own.

Robin Austin, NDP education critic, said teachers are the only thing left to cut.

“Basically all the fat has been cut from the system, now we are facing teachers being laid off ... When school boards are looking at cutting teachers, there’s nothing left to cut.”

This announcement comes on the heels of the James Dorsey arbitration hearing, which awarded extra vacation time or pay to teachers who work in oversized classrooms.

Harris said cuts would definitely not help the problem. “If you remove teachers from the system, (overcrowding) is just going to get worse.”

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