Enrolment is down across the school district and it is projected to get worse before it gets better.
Preliminary numbers for School District 20 (Kootenay Columbia) are showing enrolment from kindergarten to Grade 12 and alternate education programs could be down as many as 87 students from initial school year projections.
The total numbers are also down from this time one year ago by 140 students, from 3,969 to 3,829.
Although J.L Crowe Secondary School rose by 18 students to 756 this year, Rossland Secondary School dropped by 35 students to 209, and the alternate education program had a 42-student drop to 112.
SD20 director of instruction Bill Ford cautioned reading too much into the enrolment figures since the numbers are always fluid until Sept. 31 when the final, full-time-equivalent enrolment numbers are tabulated.
“So we’re not too panicked about the numbers on the page,” he told the SD20 board of trustees at its first meeting of the new school year in Blueberry on Monday night. “At this point in time we know our secondary schools are still loading kids in.”
But looking further down the list of grade-by-grade total enrolments across the district the numbers do become disconcerting, particularly in light of the district’s budget being directly influenced by actual numbers of students.
According to figures released by SD20 administration, 340 students are set to graduate this year, compared to only 319 Grade 11s, and 312 Grade 10s. To make matters worse, there were only 272 students enrolled in kindergarten this year—down nine from the year before.
With the district losing 50 students from its graduating classes within the next three years—and over 60 in the next decade—the enrolment situation is not improving and could force the school district to consider further budget cuts.
The numbers grow bleaker with 303 Grade 9 students and 312 students in Grade 8, and all seven elementary grade classes are well below the 300 mark, the lowest total being 234 Grade 5 students.
People need to know SD20 enrolments are going down in the future, said school trustee Toni Driutti.
“It looks like we are going to enter into crisis here … that means those are the total graduates for the whole of the district,” she said.
Ford said the district was “happy” with the kindergarten numbers they are showing, but the discrepancy between graduating and lower primary grades will sort itself out in the next few years.
“That number is actually expected to grow,” he said.
Although figures on class sizes and teacher numbers won’t be available until next month, classroom sizes in the last year increased, according to results from a B.C. Ministry of Education Foundational Skills Assessment (FSA).
In July the report reviewed classroom sizes within SD20 and found averages for kindergarten, grades 1-3, grades 4-7 and grades 8-12 in their analysis.
Schools like J.L Crowe (Trail), Rossland Secondary School, Glenmerry Elementary (Trail), Webster Elementary (Warfield), MacLean Elementary (Rossland) and Fruitvale Elementary were studied.
Class sizes increased as the grade levels progressed in SD20, with the highest average recorded at 27.7 grade 4-7 students per class in RSS.
In kindergarten, Fruitvale ranked the lowest in the Greater Trail region for class size—with 16 students per class—while MacLean and Webster both had 19 students on average. Glenmerry led the way with 19.7 students on average for kindergarten.
Classes from grades 1-3 at Glenmerry averaged with 20.4 students, while Webster had a mere class size of 18.8 students. On average, schools in the Greater Trail region had similar class sizes of roughly 20 students on each location.
Class sizes increased between grades 4-7, with high numbers like 27.4 students in Fruitvale, 27.6 at Glenmerry and 27.7 at RSS, contrary to a mere 23.3 at Webster and 27.3 at MacLean.
J.L. Crowe had class sizes of roughly 25 students per class in grade 8-12, and a whopping 40 students engaged in a leadership course, but RSS had 22.4 per class.
In early August a B.C. Court of Appeal decision on class sizes meant that school administrators must be accountable to teachers for planning class sizes, overturning a 2009 decision in arbitration that said as long as a classroom did not exceed 33 students, opinions of a principal or superintendent mattered when determining if the size and composition were appropriate.
However, in a move last March to deal with a budgetary shortfall, the SD20 board of trustees imposed a district-wide rise of one student in the student-to-teacher ratio—from 24-1 to 25-1.
The rule under the School Act capped class sizes above Grade 4 at 30 students, “unless the principal consults with the teacher, principal and superintendent from the opinion the class is appropriate for student learning.”
Over the last five years the Kootenay Columbia region lost 20 full time teachers and administrators, according to the FSA.
Although teaching wages have increased by roughly $7,000 over the same five-year period, the average years of experience teachers had in this region decreased from 17.3 in 2007-08 to 15.4 in 2011-12.
The FSA is an annual assessment of student achievement based on reading, writing and numeracy results.