Student enrolment down again at local schools

Student enrolment is down in our school district once again this year, based on a preliminary head count

Student enrolment is down in our school district once again this year, based on a preliminary head count.

School District 72 lost 60 students over the summer, but that figure was less than originally expected.

“We were actually forecasting a decline of 102 students and we came in at 60 students,” said Kevin Patrick, secretary treasurer for School District 72.

“It’s tough anytime we have declines and the 42 more we’ve preliminarily counted is good news for the overall health of our school population.”

Further good news is the fact the numbers seem to be levelling out.

“Historically it’s not substantial, we’ve had larger declines in the past,” Patrick said.

“We hope for the declines to stop and reverse in the next two to three years.”

Which would be welcome news for a school district that has had to cope with declining enrolment the past few years, particularly in the high schools.

To help manage the exodus, the school district reconfigured its schools this year by adding Grade 9 at both Carihi and Timberline high schools and adding Grade 6 to Phoenix and Southgate middle schools.

Before reconfiguration, enrolment at the high schools was expected to decrease significantly until 2012, when Carihi was forecasted to have 567 students and Timberline just 465.

“A high school with just over 500 students is not an effective operation but that’s what our demographics are showing us,” former Assistant Superintendent Jim Ansell said at a reconfiguration planning session two years ago.

“Small secondary schools present limitations in what can be offered and students are increasingly needing those specialized courses but if we don’t have enough students, we can’t run them.”

The concern was that if students were unable to take the high school courses they need for post secondary, they may be turned away.

School District 72 has also been active in attending international student recruitment fairs to encourage overseas students to come and study in Campbell River schools. Superintendent Tom Longridge has credited the program in the past for increasing the student population.

Patrick said the reason for the decline in students this year was the 2012 Grade 12 graduating class was larger than this September’s entrance class.

“We graduated 60 more students than entered kindergarten,” Patrick said.

But despite the loss, the district is not expecting a budget hit, as School District 72 is in funding protection, meaning the province will maintain the district’s 2011/12 level of funding despite a decline in students.

“It actually doesn’t affect the budget at all because we’re in funding protection,” Patrick said.

“There’s a maximum amount that our grant will drop from one year to the next.”