Student enrolment slide slowing

YEARS OF declining student enrolment may be ending, says a senior official with the Coast Mountains School District.

YEARS OF declining student enrolment may be ending, says a senior official with the Coast Mountains School District.

Director of instruction Brent Speidel says enrolment numbers to the end of September are about the same as they were last year and are within projections made this spring.

The decline in student numbers began in 1997, the year the regional forest industry began its own downward spiral, when the district was home to about 8,000 students.

By last year that number had dropped to about 4,800 and is now slightly up at  approximately 4,927 students, not including distance education learners.

“We have been losing 100 to 200 kids every year; this is the first year where we are finally coming in about the same,” Speidel said.

While the drop seems to have tapered off, more students continue to graduate than ones entering the system.

“We’ve got a couple more years left where what we are putting out at the top end is more than what we are putting out at the bottom,” Speidel said.

According to Speidel the district added the equivalent of three full-time teachers to deal with some specific class size issues.

One such issue occurred in Thornhill where one kindergarten class was added because 11 more kindergarten students than expected showed up.

There has also been a minor bump in enrolment at Skeena Secondary, as some Thornhill parents decided to send their children to the school a year early in advance of the closure next year of Thornhill Junior Secondary.

Speidel said some of the requests to move Thornhill students to Skeena this year were granted, and some were denied, depending on the circumstance.

“We had to add some staffing at Skeena, we projected 500 and they are at 523,” Speidel said.

Some new students have arrived from Prince Rupert and some from schools operating in First Nations villages, he added.

Speidel said if enrolment starts to climb the district will be ready for that too.

“We’ve got room if the kids show up,” he said. “It’s easy to add teachers, because we have the classrooms to put them in.”

At Caledonia Senior Secondary School enrolment is up from 519 last year to 523 this year, Cassie Hall Elementary lost a few students dropping from 276 to 260.

École Mountainview experienced an influx of students this September as its total went from 134 to 161. Skeena Junior Secondary School had also had a boost in students, with 486

enroled last year and 523 this year.

Students numbers at Suwilaawks Community School remained about the same, dropping by two from 271 to 269, and Uplands Elementary also stayed on par increasing from 351 last year to 356.

In Thornhill, the primary school increased from 208 to 213, the elementary school also increased from 205 to 213, and enrolment at the junior school dropped, from 207 last year to 195 currently.

Parkside Secondary School is holding steady with 155 students, the same as last year as that is all the school can handle.

At Terrace’s private schools, enrolment also held  relatively steady, with a few minor drops.

Veritas Catholic School has 203 students, compared to 210 last September. Centennial Christian School is down by 15 students with 140 compared to 155 last year.

École Jack Cook has 30 students, dropping by eight from 38 last September and the Seventh-day Adventist School remained unchanged, with 16 students enroled this year.

Mountain View Christian Academy is slightly up, with 68 students compared to last year’s 62.