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New West school district 'repurposes' money for classroom furniture

Overspending on its furniture budget has been offset by underspending on computer equipment as the district buys 1,500 new chairs
Classroom Furniture
The New Westminster school district is spending $100,000 on 1,500 new chairs for schools where existing furniture is falling apart.

It may not be one of the most glamorous items in the New Westminster school district’s budget, but it’s definitely one of the most practical.

The school district has diverted some money originally earmarked for computer and technology replacement towards an even more fundamental classroom requirement: chairs.

Secretary-treasurer Bettina Ketcham, reporting to trustees on year-to-date spending at the June 8 meeting, noted the district has shifted some money around in order to purchase new furniture.

“From the budget process, we heard loud and clear that things of a standard nature, such as student chairs, were literally falling apart,” she said.

The district has invested about $100,000 to supply 1,500 student chairs for schools.

Ketcham said that spending is distinct from separate amounts already budgeted for new furniture at the district’s two new schools: New Westminster Secondary and the under-construction replacement for Richard McBride Elementary (soon to be called Skwo:wech Elementary). Rather, Ketcham said, the new chairs will be sent to school sites around the district that haven’t seen a recent “refresh” of their furniture.

The district is also using some of the money towards shelving and storage at the new NWSS.

“To make that space completely functional, some dollars were diverted from that budget to ensure that, come September, the school is functional and operational in all its glory for a brand-new site and a full return to students back in the classroom,” she said.


A budget report presented to trustees shows the district had overspent its projected furniture and equipment budget by more than $238,000 as of the end of May. But Ketcham noted that money has been offset by underspending on computer and technology equipment, which still had $322,000 left as of the same date.

She said the district has taken a “bit of a pause” on computer spending this year to take stock of the type of work that needs to be done and the timelines for carrying out that work. At the same time, she said, the district also benefited from COVID-19-related funds that allowed it to replace some devices for teachers and students.

“We have made investments wisely in that regard,” she said.

All of which means students can sit in comfy new chairs come September without driving the district into the red.

“It’s not at all driving any kind of deficit,” Ketcham said. “It is just a repurposing of operational dollars to an area that was, in our opinion, critical to service the needs of students.”

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