The Foothills School Division board has passed its 2023-24 budget.

Assistant Superintendent Drew Chipman says the budget is aimed at supporting the division's Education Plan which is now into year three.

Top priorities are to engage, support and ready students for success.

To that end, they'll be running a $920,000 deficit.

"Because of what everybody and the schools have been through with COVID and making sure students have those opportunities for success we felt that it was important to continue to add to the budget where we can and then to provide some of those other supports as much as possible and that's why we're running another year deficit," he explained.

Chipman explains this will probably be the last year they can run a deficit.

He says by far the most significant portion of expenses are staff related and that's how they're able to address those priorities, by making sure front-line staff have the support they need and maximizing the number of people in front of the kids.

"One of the things that we're doing is putting additional supports in for French language, First Nation, Metis and Inuit and some of our higher needs students at Cameron Crossing so some of those areas take the pressure off teachers."

The division's received Mental Health in Schools pilot funding for higher needs junior high learners at Cameron Crossing so they'll be adding a learning coach, a youth development coach, an educational assistant and some additional teaching supports.

Chipman says insurance rates and transportation are still of some concern.

"It's ten years since the flood so we believe those numbers (insurance premiums) are going to start to come down, but it will take time, so we're still paying hundreds of thousands of dollars more than a neighbouring board would be paying that didn't have those catastrophic losses so that's still an area of concern for us and one that we continue talk to talk to the province about."

He says while there were significant dollars added to transportation the province's plan to make it available to more students in 2024-25 means they still have a lot of work to do to meet those goals and expects it'll be difficult to meet those requirements.