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Comox Valley school enrolment ahead of projections for fall

Classroom space could become a bigger issue for following school year
School District 71 enrolment is already ahead of projections for the coming school year. File photo

School enrolment is expected to grow for the coming school year even higher than projected, according to school district senior staff.

At the May 24 board of education meeting, assistant superintendent Geoff Manning updated trustees on the latest enrolment data. The district estimated it would be ahead of projections by 200 students back in February.

“We set that as a goal, and I can tell you as of today we have met and passed that already,” he said.

That still leaves three more months before school even starts in September, which could further add pressure on classrooms.

“All of those students coming in will be above what we projected,” he said. “That’s for brick and mortar schools. That doesn’t include NIDES Navigate.”

NIDES Navigates fluctuates, he added, which can make projections hard, but Manning is confident the online learning enrolment will meet projections as well.

Overall, the good news from this growth is that it puts the school district in a position where it can balance its budget for the coming year without making large cuts or using reserves.

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However, the influx of new students is putting pressure on classrooms. Trustee Janice Caton asked about space issues at school sites.

“We have spaces for all students,” Manning responded.

The assistant superintendent added that some schools show some ‘pinch points’ but that there will be enough space for the coming year. However, after 2022/23, the district will need to find solutions.

Even this year, Cumberland showed a rebound in enrolment after a one-year lull, while the district was faced with moving the catchment boundaries for Royston Elementary, which meant some students had to switch to Courtenay Elementary.

Other parts of the community will likely pose some enrolment pressure challenges, such as the corridor of schools between Comox and Courtenay.

“They’re already starting to fill up quite a bit,” Manning said.

One example Caton cited was the residential development around the Queneesh Elementary site, which seems to be attracting many new families, as do a couple of other schools.

“I drive by there every day, and I’m seeing more babies and buggies and little munchkins around there,” she said.

Earlier this year, the district reported its kindergarten programs, especially programs of choice, were filling up quickly, while many neighbourhood schools were either at or near capacity.

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