District sees slight enrolment increase

NANAIMO: More elementary school students than expected in school district classrooms this fall.

More elementary school students than expected came to Nanaimo school district classrooms this fall.

As of last week, preliminary registration numbers show that elementary school enrolment is about 70 students higher than projected, said Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman.

Last spring, the district predicted it would lose about 46 students, with 7,496 elementary students, 5,599 secondary students, 218 in alternate learning programs, 150 full-time equivalent students in distance learning and 200 fee-paying international students.

Reimer said enrolment numbers won’t be finalized until the end of September and preliminary numbers are not yet available for secondary students, as enrolment fluctuates in secondary schools during the first few weeks of school.

She said the elementary increase, which brings numbers slightly higher than last year’s elementary enrolment count, comes despite losing about 60 students in the Ladysmith area to the Stz’uminus First Nation’s new community school.

The change does not affect the district’s bottom line, as it is in funding protection, which ensured the district received the same amount of funding this year as it did last year despite declining enrolment, said Reimer. Enrolment has to increase significantly before the district receives more money.

Increases were spread out across several schools, which were able to absorb the extra students into existing classrooms, meaning that no additional teachers needed to be hired, she added. So far, the district has removed planned classes from Ladysmith Primary School, Ladysmith Intermediate School, and North Oyster and Davis Road elementary schools to reflect the decreased students in the Ladysmith area and added a class at Seaview Elementary School.

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said it’s positive that the district gained elementary students, as almost every single school has at least two empty classrooms.

“We need to have more children,” he said. “We’ve got so many empty classrooms.”