The Campbell River School District is facing funding implications after it received fewer students than projected this year.
The school district received just under 100 students fewer than they were expecting. The anticipated cost of the missed forecast is an estimated reduction of $397,000 to the annual budget.
Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Patrick laid out the situation for school board trustees during a recent meeting.
“When we come in less than expected, as we have this year, we’re getting less money,” he said.
In analyzing other districts’ enrolment numbers, he said Campbell River is unique.
“I’ve only noticed one other district that hasn’t had big growth this year,” he said. “Districts south of us, smaller districts, districts this size, everybody seems to have had that growth.”
School District 72 uses a demographic projection tool to come up with its predicted enrolment numbers for the upcoming school year. Patrick explains that it’s a software that uses data from the federal government, as well as enrolment history over a few years. District experience also comes into play.
“It’ll look at things like trends, are we growing or are we shrinking? It looks at how many students are graduating and leaving the system and how many kids are coming in at the kindergarten level as to whether there will be more coming in at kindergarten and less leaving Grade 12 or the reverse,” he said. “They can use that to give us a pretty good idea of what we can expect for the next school year.”
The predicted student enrolment for this academic year was 5,575. As of Sept. 30, the district’s annual enrolment was 5,479.
While this is an increase in the actual number of students in the district from last year, it is 96 students less than the projection. That’s important because the school district builds its annual budget based partly off those numbers and now it could potentially get a lot less money from the B.C. Ministry of Education than it was expecting.
The school district was able to save money from not needing to fund or staff a reserve position it had on the books, but no longer needs to fill.
It’s still not clear where the prediction went wrong.
“What we know is not as many students moved into the district as we expected, so there weren’t any changes within the economy of Campbell River where we would have expected anything different than what we experienced years before,” said Patrick.
Both the hospital and the dam projects have been complete for a number of years.
“We thought the impact of that would have been spread over a number of years and that we were will receiving more students overall than the loss of students moving out of town,” said Patrick.
“I still can’t put a finger on any single reason – the dam construction ending, the hospital – I haven’t been able to figure that out,” said Patrick, “but it can happen, it does happen and obviously it’s happened for us this year and I still am looking toward next year.”
The software they use for the prediction will take into account this year’s anomaly.
“The nice thing with using averages is it will continually adjust and if it was out one year because of an anomaly, then it will account for that and become closer in the future,” said Patrick.
The grants the district receives from the ministry are complex and could change depending on a number of factors. So the final picture won’t be clear until the district receives that grant package.
“At that time we’ll know if we’re seeing a significant reduction as a school district, or if it’s less of an impact,” said Patrick. “We have to wait and see what that is. We’ll know what the bottom line impact is in February.”