There are more than 8,000 students enrolled in School District 71 this year. Photo by Scott Strasser

Comox Valley schools see increased student enrolment

Student enrolment numbers have been finalized in the Comox Valley and it’s got School District 71 (SD71) members feeling good.

According to SD71 superintendent Dean Lindquist, the 2017–18 school year has seen a three per cent increase in student enrolment compared to 2016–17, as well as an increase in long-distance learners.

There are 7,509 students enrolled in the K–12 system this year and 729 in the distance learning system. That compares to 7,271 in K–12 last year and 544 in distance learning.

That means there are 423 more students overall in the district this year than last year — 238 in traditional full-time equivalent programs and 185 doing distance learning.

Last year also saw an increased enrolment of about two per cent, according to Lindquist.

He said the increase over the last two years bucks a trend of declining enrolment figures that stood for over a decade in the Comox Valley.

“If you take a look at enrolment over the last several years — many of the trustees could speak to it better than I could — this board has experienced about 15 years of declining enrolments,” he said.

The increased enrolment helps SD71 climb out of funding protection, according to Lindquist. Funding protection provides school districts with additional financial support from the province to combat funding declines larger than 1.5 per cent.

“Hopefully, we’ll continue to see this. We’re seeing it across all grade levels,” he said. “Things are looking healthy for the school system.”

SD71 director of instruction for elementary schools Allan Douglas said the district has not researched what caused the increase, but said that anecdotally, most parents he speaks to move to the Valley for lifestyle reasons.

“Employment opportunities, and certainly lifestyle, are very big reasons why people come here,” said Douglas. “We’ve had many families sell in the Lower Mainland and move here. That seems to be bringing them in.”

Alongside the increase in students, SD71 also saw an increase in teachers this year. There were about 70 more teachers registered to teach in the Valley in 2017–18 than there were last year — an increase of about 15 per cent.

Three modular classrooms were set up at Arden Elementary School and Mark. R Isfeld Secondary School before the school year began to help accommodate the influx of both students and teachers.

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