Kindergarten enrolment a positive sign for SD20

“Getting 300 or up to 310 is fantastic news.” ~ Greg Luterbach, superintendent of schools.


Greg Luterbach

School District 20 (SD20) is quietly celebrating enrolment numbers that start at the kindergarten level.

Since registration kicked off in February, 288 kindergarten students have enrolled in schools in the district, which is up from the 230 signed up around this time last year. SD20 forecasts up to a total of 310 in desks come September, compared to 257 this year.

“This is great news, considering the last number of years our kindergarten numbers have been 240, 250, or 260,” said Greg Luterbach, superintendent of schools. “Getting 300 or up to 310 is fantastic news.”

He reminds parents who’ve yet to register their child to go to their nearest neighbourhood school and complete the necessary paperwork, which ultimately helps the board plan accordingly for next year.

Kindergarten enrolment is part of a formula used to project enrolment. SD20 follows Interior Health birthrates and makes a comparison with a running spreadsheet that looks at actual numbers and historical patterns.

In his career, Luterbach has watched enrolment dwindle and schools close as a result. In 1996, when the two school districts amalgamated, there were 6,000 students in the district and now there are approximately 3,700.

Though next year’s projections aren’t a drastic spike in the graph, he sees the pattern changing and is content with the change of course.

“I would say for the first time really in 10-plus years we’re actually going to have more students enrolled in our schools next year than we did this year,” he shared. “Schools across the province, including those in our area, have been on a steady decline because there are just less kids.”

Provincial statistics did point to numbers levelling off by 2016/17, and he’s pleased to see the prediction ringing true in the region.

The bump up in young learners along with some secondary students enrolled in dual credit work between a high school and Selkirk College has pushed Kootenay-Columbia out of funding protection next year.

“The good news is we’ve kind of bottomed out enrolment, we’re going to stay stable, and we’re going to be out of that funding protection,” Luterbach reiterated.

“But it’s a double-edged sword because if you don’t get your (projected) enrolment, you all of a sudden have to cut things but if you get more, you get more money coming through the door.”

Projections help the district plan for the right amount of teachers and classrooms needed for a given school year. Now that preliminary numbers are in, the school district is tasked with looking at staffing and class configuration. Naturally, the 2016/2017 budget is developed at the same time.

In November, the Board of Trustees released an anticipated budget shortfall of $1.3 million but updated kindergarten numbers, and one-time dual credit student funding has dropped this projection to about $1 million. Plus, SD20 is anticipating its teacher pension plan contribution to be reduced by $350,000, shaving the total shortfall to $650,000.

“That’s probably the least amount we’ve seen over the last five years,” said Luterbach, who adds the board has faced steep deficits of up to $1.5 million in years past.

After spring break, trustees and staff plan on sitting down and tackling the budget and potential savings measures. The committee has previously shown a commitment to exploring transportation as a means of cutting costs.

Whether or not a “long list” is shared with the community right away or refined before publicly released remains unknown at this time, but Luterbach expects a public meeting around the budget to take place by the middle of April.

“We’ve released that long list early in past years and there’s always a balancing act in trying to let people see all the different things that are potential ways to balance the budget and then causing concern and upset around things that are on that list that often come up as ideas just brainstormed,” he added.

School District 20 (SD20) is quietly celebrating enrolment numbers that start at the kindergarten level.

Since registration kicked off in February, 288 kindergarten students have enrolled in schools in the district, which is up from the 230 signed up around this time last year. SD20 forecasts up to a total of 310 in desks come September, compared to 257 this year.

“This is great news, considering the last number of years our kindergarten numbers have been 240, 250, or 260,” said Greg Luterbach, superintendent of schools. “Getting 300 or up to 310 is fantastic news.”

He reminds parents who’ve yet to register their child to go to their nearest neighbourhood school and complete the necessary paperwork, which ultimately helps the board plan accordingly for next year.

Kindergarten enrolment is part of a formula used to project enrolment. SD20 follows Interior Health birthrates and makes a comparison with a running spreadsheet that looks at actual numbers and historical patterns.

In his career, Luterbach has watched enrolment dwindle and schools close as a result. In 1996, when the two school districts amalgamated, there were 6,000 students in the district and now there are approximately 3,700.

Though next year’s projections aren’t a drastic spike in the graph, he sees the pattern changing and is content with the change of course.

“I would say for the first time really in 10-plus years we’re actually going to have more students enrolled in our schools next year than we did this year,” he shared. “Schools across the province, including those in our area, have been on a steady decline because there are just less kids.”

Provincial statistics did point to numbers levelling off by 2016/17, and he’s pleased to see the prediction ringing true in the region.

The bump up in young learners along with some secondary students enrolled in dual credit work between a high school and Selkirk College has pushed Kootenay-Columbia out of funding protection next year.

“The good news is we’ve kind of bottomed out enrolment, we’re going to stay stable, and we’re going to be out of that funding protection,” Luterbach reiterated.

“But it’s a double-edged sword because if you don’t get your (projected) enrolment, you all of a sudden have to cut things but if you get more, you get more money coming through the door.”

Projections help the district plan for the right amount of teachers and classrooms needed for a given school year. Now that preliminary numbers are in, the school district is tasked with looking at staffing and class configuration. Naturally, the 2016/2017 budget is developed at the same time.

In November, the Board of Trustees released an anticipated budget shortfall of $1.3 million but updated kindergarten numbers, and one-time dual credit student funding has dropped this projection to about $1 million. Plus, SD20 is anticipating its teacher pension plan contribution to be reduced by $350,000, shaving the total shortfall to $650,000.

“That’s probably the least amount we’ve seen over the last five years,” said Luterbach, who adds the board has faced steep deficits of up to $1.5 million in years past.

After spring break, trustees and staff plan on sitting down and tackling the budget and potential savings measures. The committee has previously shown a commitment to exploring transportation as a means of cutting costs.

Whether or not a “long list” is shared with the community right away or refined before publicly released remains unknown at this time, but Luterbach expects a public meeting around the budget to take place by the middle of April.

“We’ve released that long list early in past years and there’s always a balancing act in trying to let people see all the different things that are potential ways to balance the budget and then causing concern and upset around things that are on that list that often come up as ideas just brainstormed,” he added.