More elementary students in SD20 than projected

Kootenay-Columbia has more elementary students sitting in desks than anticipated, if a daily head count is any indication.

Kootenay-Columbia has more elementary students sitting in desks than anticipated, if a daily head count is any indication.

Superintendent of Schools Greg Luterbach has compared projected numbers with actual student enrolment and notes there are 44 more children signed up for K-9 education in School District 20 (SD20). But the spiked graph also shares a place for some dips, which include about 41 fewer secondary kids, and 22 fewer alternate students at Kootenay-Columbia Learning Centre (KCLC).

Overall, SD20 counts about 19 students shy from the K-12 list than anticipated.

“We’re in that strange situation the Ministry of Education calls funding protection, so that we’re guaranteed no less money than 98 and a half per cent of what we had last year,” Luterbach explained. “The fact that we are going to be 20 less students than we projected is not going to impact the bottom line at all.”

The head count is done almost daily, he told to the Board of Education at its first regular meeting of the school year, held Monday night.

But the numbers presented to trustees are from Sept. 22.

Fruitvale and Twin Rivers elementary schools both have 15 more students than projected while the high schools, J. L. Crowe and Stanley Humphries secondary schools, plus KCLC are hanging at the opposite end  with a combined total of about 63 fewer kids than predicted.

The latter numbers may climb once administrative staff is given enough time to navigate a new, slow moving system.

“It’s really nice to see a projection that’s going upwards, instead of being at that lower plateau,” said trustee Rosann Brunton.

But the relief may only be temporary, Luterbach concluded.

“As much as those numbers are better than we thought, I would just have you look at the kindergarten numbers that say, 257 students. That is 30 less than a few years ago so you kind of ride the ebb and flow,” he explained. “You’ve got a birthrate; you’ve got in-migration, and you’ve got out-migration.

“Sometimes we win that equation, and sometimes we lose that equation.”

It’s a pleasant surprise, nonetheless, to see a rise in a district that has been dealing with dwindling enrolment for some time. Though there’s no clear answer for the bump up, one can expect it’s attributed to new families moving into the area. But, the same could be assumed for the lower kindergarten numbers.

Luterbach looked into the possibility of losing that young set to other education options in the area, including St. Michael’s Elementary School and Ecole des Sept-Sommets, but there is no indication that all the kindergarten students went there.

“Unfortunately, there must’ve been some out-migration of those families,” he said.

In the spring, SD20 is busy guessing what enrolment will look like based on a formula that starts with birth numbers from Interior Health. The projection number determines how many teachers are allocated to schools, but this is often adjusted.

Two additional teachers have been hired on to help alleviate the influx of elementary students. Though Fruitvale obviously needed another person on staff the second, less obvious, hire was for Rossland Summit School.

“We knew that if everybody showed up we would be very tight,” said Luterbach. “Everybody did show up, plus one.”

After weighing several options, such as reorganizing the classrooms or even bussing extra kids to Webster Elementary School, it was decided that an extra hire was the best option.

The school board was anticipating the possibility of getting another teacher clocked in but had to dip into last year’s surplus funding for an additional $100,000 for the other teacher’s wages.

Luterbach says district numbers tend to fluctuate slightly at the beginning of the year and then stablilizes for the remainder.

“It’s kind of a snap shot in time for our whole K-12 system and we kind of use it as a bench mark to see how many kids we’re going to see at any one time,” said Luterbach.

“But we know that the day after Oct. 2nd or 5th, a kid might come in, or a kid might leave, they’re kind of constantly ebbing and flowing.”