Student enrolment numbers and related funding were on the agenda at the last School District 20 board meeting of the school year on Monday and all signs point to a decrease in students attending SD20 public institutions in the 2014-2015 school year.
Funding in relation to enrolment was up for discussion and concerns arose that fewer students would translate into less funding for district schools.
According to the B.C. Education website, each full-time enrolled student in the province netted their school board approximately $6,900 for the 2013-2014 school year with more funding added for students who were considered special needs.
If enrolment numbers aren’t as high as predicted, Greg Luterbach, superintendent of schools says the funding won’t be affected due to funding protection allocated by the provincial government. Funding protection makes up one per cent of the province’s annual budget for schools.
“We are part of funding protection, so if we have lower enrolment numbers, then we won’t lose funding,” he said.
Enrolment numbers aren’t finalized until school starts back up in September, but Luterbach says the predicted number of enrolled students for the 2014-2015 school year will be going down by around 50 students
“[At the end of June], we had about 50 students less in the traditional schools with about 21 more in our alternative schools,” he said. “So overall, we are down by 18 students from the end of September 2013. With the number of students entering kindergarten and the number of students that graduated, we would be down about 50 [students for the upcoming school year].”
Luterbach says the numbers aren’t out of the ordinary and some school years have seen a larger decrease in student numbers.
“They are typical numbers that we are used to, so nothing we should be concerned about,” he explained. “Minus 20 over the year is actually quite good compared to other years.”
Bill Ford, assistant superintendent of schools, shared projected kindergarten registration numbers to the board during the meeting and said the school system should expect 243 students, down from September 2013’s projected numbers of 286, registered for the 2014-2015 school year, although the numbers are not set in stone.
“The last numbers are as of June 20,” he said. “Those numbers won’t change until the first week of school, whenever that may be.”
Andy Davidoff, president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers’ Union, wanted to know why the estimate for September 2014 kindergarten enrolment had changed so drastically over the school year. Luterbach told him it was based on government data.
“Originally we were predicting closer to 290 kindergarten students based on the birth data we got from Interior Health,” explained Luterbach. “It’s always a game of trying to guess where that number is going to be [by the next school year].”
Questions were raised about what caused predicted numbers to be lower and Davidoff wondered if it had anything to do with the sale of the McLean School building to the french school board and the opening of Seven Summits Centre for Learning, an independent school in Rossland.
“There was a change in legislation around the intake of francophone students at that school and we lost some kindergarten students that we normally would have thought we were getting,” said Luterbach. “There certainly was the independent school that we lost some students to, but when you look at the bigger picture, it was the shift of bodies. Rossland Secondary School lost a number of Grade 8 and 9 students and some chose very late in the game to move to J.L. Crowe, so that is probably the biggest impact area.”
Ford also wanted to remind the rest of the board that there were a few students who were taking courses at Seven Summits and Crowe simultaneously, and though that affected numbers, the board still received some funding for those students.
“We had 3 or 4 students that were taking courses at the independent school and courses at Crowe,” he said. “They tended to be courses in the fine arts and the practical arts, and we did get funding per course.”
The next school board meeting is schedule for the evening of Sept. 8 and will be the opening meeting for the 2014-2015 school year.