School District 71 is again seeing more students this year. File photo

Enrolment continues to rise in Comox Valley school district

Schools such as Denman Island provided a surprise after the final tally

School District 71 continues to grow, according to the latest enrolment update.

At the Oct. 22 board meeting, assistant superintendent Geoff Manning, describing the situation a “good news” story, gave a brief presentation to the board of education about how the numbers stand versus projections from earlier in the year.

In September, he told the board that staff were anticipating increases at many schools.

“At the last meeting, we were feeling pretty good about it,” Manning told the trustees. “The numbers have come in.”

He said enrolment in on the increase “substantially” in the kindergarten to Grade 12 system, as well as in the district’s alternate education program. There were almost 1oo more students in the system.

As well, the district’s distance education program had added approximately 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) students.

“That was really great news,” he said.

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley schools project student enrolment increase

RELATED STORY: School District 71 starting the year on a strong note

The district does not report final numbers until the Ministry of Education releases official enrolment at the end of the month.

School districts plan for each coming school year by projecting enrolment in order to put together a preliminary budget and staff schools. Their operating grant from the Ministry of Education is based on actual enrolment numbers as of Sept. 30 each year, which are then used to produce a final budget for each year. The projections tend to be accurate, especially over the long-term, Manning told the board, but there were some surprises within the district this fall.

“We were up on Denman Island,” he said.

This translates into eight additional students, which Manning said might not sound like a lot, but for smaller schools like Denman Island Community School, it makes for a big jump.

“It actually created staffing issues, and we needed to add a teacher there,” he said.

Manning described Ecole Puntledge Park Elementary as “way up.” With 510 students, it is now the largest elementary school in the district.

Huband Park was also up by 10 students over what the district projected earlier in the year, with almost 400 students in total.

Cumberland Community School, which runs from the StrongStart early learning program up through Grade 9, was also up, with a total of 547 students.

Another surprise, Manning said, was Lake Trail Middle School, which was up by more than 20 students over projections.

“That’s all good news information,” Manning said. “The money that we will receive for those extra students is going to go back out into schools.”

The board had questions for the assistant superintendent as to whether there were any surprises in terms of declining enrolment. Manning cited Valley View Elementary as the one that stands out, adding district staff are not sure why the student population has been steadily decreasing over time. He suggested people in the catchment area may not be moving, meaning there is no influx of new families.

“That’s a bit of a surprise,” he added.

On the whole though, most schools that saw decreases only dropped by two or three students over projections.

RELATED STORY: School district launches catchment consultation process in the Comox Valley

School District 71 is also undergoing a review of school catchment areas to determine whether to change boundaries in order to better use space at local schools. It will be consulting with community stakeholders in November and December.

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