Classroom chairs (Pixabay photo)

SD78 expecting fewer students in schools over next three years

The school district shared its projected enrolment numbers at the board meeting on Feb. 16

The Fraser Cascade School District is projecting fewer students coming into its schools in the next three years.

During the school board meeting on Feb. 16, assistant secretary-treasurer Jenny Veenbaas shared the school district’s projections for enrolment numbers for the next three years: 1,647 for 2021-2022, 1,641 for 2022-2023, and 1,628 for 2023-2024.

Enrolment had been on a steady increase since the 2014-2015 school year, when the district saw 1,591 students in its schools. By 2018-2019, that number had grown to just over 1,741 students.

The school district had anticipated about 1,740 students in the district for 2019-2020, but actually saw only 1,680 — a number calculated before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Teacher salaries, special needs dominate SD78 budget talks

“We anticipated more growth, but currently we’re seeing more retirees moving into the communities, and there’s not as much building happening,” assistant secretary-treasurer Jenny Veenbaas said.

“Even though we hope to see more families move into Hope, that’s not currently what we’re projecting.”

The 2020-2021 saw a further decrease in enrolment numbers.

Earlier this year, Lowe had presented this year’s enrolment total to the board as close to 1,680, but this included students who opted for home schooling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s actual enrolment is 1,638 for students who are learning in school and students who are learning remotely through the district.

For the 2021-2022 school year, the district is anticipating 1,647 students in September. That projection is what the Ministry of Education uses to help decide funding levels for the school district. That funding will be announced on March 15.

RELATED: SD78 $2.1M over budget due to COVID-19 costs

Secretary-treasurer Natalie Lowe said the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 projections are on the conservative side, to help make sure the district doesn’t end up with too many staff and not enough students.

It’s easier to fit a few extra students into classrooms than to lay off teachers with no classes.

“This way we’re not put into a situation where we have extra people and no work for them,” she explained during the meeting.

“So much as we would like to have the luxury of expecting some of these people back, we’ll wait and see if we actually get them back.”

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