School District 5 attendance has increased for the 2015/16 school year according to enrolment numbers released at the Nov. 10 school board meeting.
The total number of Student Funded Full Time Equivalent spaces as of Oct. 2, 2015 was 5,349.5. The numbers include 19 schools and institutions.
“We’re up 166,” Lynn Hauptman, School District 5 Superintendent, said.
“That’s across the whole district, that’s not just Cranbrook. That includes Jaffray, Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford. Based on that, we do a preliminary budget every spring and we project what we believe will be the amount of students every year.”
A full time equivalent (FTE) of 1.0 equals one full-time student, while 0.5 would be a student enrolled in half the classes.
Hauptman said it’s always good news when student numbers go up for the district, because their budget is based on student enrolment.
The biggest change was Laurie Middle School increased enrolment by 48 students — from 298.5 in 2014, to 346.5 in 2015.
Next was Kootenay Education Services, which went from 69.8 FTE in 2014, to 98.8 in 2015 — a change of 29 spaces.
Fernie Secondary had an increase of 22 students up to 208.3. Rocky Mountain Elementary also had an increase of 22 up to 238.
Rob Norum, Secretary-Treasurer for SD5, said the increased enrolment is not unexpected.
“Even 10 years ago, the projection model did show that the decline would stop and we would be stable, maybe slightly increasing, so I think we might be at that point, because we did have 12 or 13 years of decline,” Norum said.
He said that decline began around 1997-98 and didn’t start to turn around until 2012.
“It’s a positive. We’d like to see it as a trend, but one year does not make a trend,” he said. “If it increases for the next two, three years then we would have an increasing trend. I think we’re going to see it slightly increasing over the next few years, but I think more of a stabilizing, than significant increases.”
Norum said the increase follows the projection for the Kootenays.
“I can’t really comment on the rest of the province, but I think provincially there are some pockets that are increasing. A lot of the time it depends on what is happening — if it’s a mining or resource based community, like a lot of our communities, populations could fluctuate greatly up or down.”
Hauptman said one example is Sparwood, where projections were lower because of the slowdown of the resource industry.
In terms of schools, Norum said Isabella Dickens is full, with four portables needed to take in all the students. That solution was undertaken because it is the only elementary school in the community. Kootenay Orchards is pretty close to being full, as well as Rocky Mountain School in Elkford.
In Cranbrook there is room in the elementary schools, said Hauptman.
“Parents may not get into a school where they are living if they moved in late in the school year, but we do have room to accommodate students,” she said. “We won’t turn any students away.”
Laurie Middle School had a large increase. Norum said they do try to manage the intake into the two middle schools and provide enough staffing resources and sections to make it work.
“We try to be as accommodating as we can to students, but if Parkland sections are filling up, then we may not allow any other transfers back to Parkland and vice-versa to Laurie.”
He said they had 58 additional students coming into the middle school section from elementary, of which Laurie took the bulk.
Norum said they are happy with the increases and the stability it gives them.
“I think it’s more problematic to see major changes, where you’re declining rapidly or increasing rapidly,” he said. “We’ve just stopped declining and now it’s slightly increasing. It’s stable and that’s how we feel — that we have some stability and we can start not worrying about these major changes in configurations around the district.”
Hauptman said it also meant they were able to add in some extra support in terms of staffing in some of the schools.