Uncertainty around COVID seems to be having some effect on school registration numbers.
This past year, many families looked for other options, especially online ones. This could be a factor, senior staff say, in why School District 71 enrolment numbers for kindergarten have been lower than projected, though in recent days, the gap between the projections and enrolment seems to be narrowing.
At the April board meeting, senior staff updated the trustees on the situation.
“The spring’s always an interesting time as we begin to predict our enrolment for the fall,” said superintendent Tom Demeo. “This year has been one of those years … I’ve never seen in all my years of education.”
He said it has been unusually hard to predict what is going to happen with student numbers for the fall. About two weeks earlier staff noticed the numbers were significantly below projections.
“We need to remind people that we’re here, and we’re going to be running in September,” he said.
In response, the district started advertising and having schools send out a reminder to families about the need to enrol, which has seemed to have boosted the numbers.
Allan Douglas, director of instructional services for K-12, provided some details about kindergarten enrolment. Around mid-April, the numbers were 520, or 71 fewer than the projected 591. The recent efforts had brought in another 33 students by the time of the board meeting.
“We’re pretty close, and I’m pretty confident we’ll get more between now and the time school starts,” he said.
He also mentioned the Welcome to Kindergarten events for students, which over the past year or so have had to change their format in response to COVID concerns.
“In the past, it’s been a large gathering,” he said. “They come into the school, they have a tour, they see the kindergarten room, and everybody loves it. That didn’t happen last year.”
Instead, they held drive-by-type events, and the expectation is they will have to do things differently from the usual visit inside the school buildings again this year. He expects they will have to limit visits to 10 people at time, which includes families and staff. Families will have to book times, adults will wear masks, and the hope is to hold events outside.
“We’ve already had one,” Douglas said. “That was at Miracle Beach, and it went really well.”
Some schools, he added, might have to hold events over two days. The Welcome to Kindergarten events will take place through to the end of May.