PUBLIC school enrolment may be declining in Terrace and area but student numbers at independent schools are growing.
Both Veritas Catholic School and Centennial Christian School report healthy enrolments in the lower grades, a sign that overall numbers will grow as those students move up through the grades.
Veritas principal Dave Crawley says the school had a fall enrolment of 242 students in the K-9 school, an increase of six over last year.
“We have a lot of pressure at the bottom of our school. We have a waiting list for kindergarten and our primary classes are very full,” said Crawley.
“We anticipate as the birth rate has increased in the area over the last five or six years that we will get more students.”
Crawley says that expected growth in the economy might add even more pressure on enrolment, and as Veritas nears 250 students, it is reaching capacity.
Veritas is “giving consideration to expansion because we anticipate the demand will be there,” said Crawley.
Once a school of K-7, Veritas added Grade 8 and Grade 9 several years ago.
Centennial Christian School is up 13 students this year, with 167 students K-12 and 17 children in pre-school.
Principal Edgar Veldman said Centennial has a large kindergarten class of 19 this year (compared to the average 12-13), more than enough to replace its 2015 grad class of five students.
“That’s a huge reason for the difference right there,” he said of the overall increase.
Long term, Veldman says Centennial expects to match the provincial trend which forecasts continued increases for independent schools.
One local independent school which did experience a drop in students is Mountainview Christian Academy, whose enrolment compared to last year is down nine students to 41.
“Our loss was primarily due to being uncertain about our facility until August,” said board chair Roger Ewald.
The lease of the Anglican church had run out and there was uncertainty all summer as to where its new home might be.
“Now that we are settled into our own newly renovated facility, we hope to gain a few [more students],” said Ewald of new space at the Skeena Valley Baptist Church.
“We have also established a pre-K program that has three learners enrolled and three more serious inquiries,” he said.
The Ministry of Education reports of enrolment from the last ten years in BC schools indicate that the proportion of students in independent schools is climbing.
In 2005, the BC public school system enrolled 90 percent of BC students and independent schools enrolled 10 percent. In 2014, public schools enrolled 87 percent, and independent enrolled 13 percent of students.