Students head into a portable classroom in Chilliwack. (Greg Laychak/Black Press file)

Housing concerns prompt decline in Fraser Cascade’s student enrolment

This year saw lower than projected enrolment, likely because of families moving out of the district

Enrolment is down at schools across the Fraser Cascade School District, and a lack of affordable housing could be the culprit.

At the school board meeting Tuesday night (Oct. 15), the district released its preliminary enrolment numbers for the 2019-20 school year, which saw a decrease of 65 students across all schools in the area as of Sept. 30.

Back in April 2019, secretary-treasurer Natalie Lowe said she was projecting a static enrolment for the school district in the 2019-20 school year.

The 2018-19 school year actually saw an increase from it’s projected numbers, continuing an upwards trend in the total amount of students.

“We’re starting to see that in our numbers in Kent and Agassiz, and it’s starting to roll out to Hope already,” Lowe said back in April. “We have space right now, and we have plans to be able to accommodate more students.”

RELATED: Status quo budget expected for Fraser-Cascade School District

However, the 2019-20 school year saw even fewer students than was anticipated at the beginning of last year. Only 1,675 students are registered at schools across the district, compared to 1,740 last year.

According to superintendent Karen Nelson, the reason could be because of housing. Although families have generally been moving east into places like Agassiz and Hope to find more affordable accommodations, a lack of supply has seen families leaving the district for other places.

“There were students we did not anticipate would be leaving our district, mainly for housing issues,” Nelson said. “That’s what we’re finding in Hope in particular. Housing just isn’t being provided and sometimes it can be very difficult to find.”

This is borne out in the enrolment numbers, which saw greater decreases in Hope and Boston Bar than in Agassiz and Harrison. (Hope Secondary is down by just over 22 full-time equivalent students, compared to AESS which is down 11.)

On the whole, elementary schools saw the smallest decreases, while alternative schools ACE and TREC actually saw modest increases in the number of students this year.

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