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Enrolment drop felt most at high schools

August 30, 2016 3:08 P.M.

Taking stock of the school year past while sizing up the one ahead.

That was the gist of school board’s last meeting before classes resume next Tuesday, Sept. 6. 

Trustees had a chance to review summer school enrolment and an exit survey of graduate plans while considering projected enrolment for 2016/2017.

Districtwide enrolment is forecast to decline by 389 full-time student equivalents, continuing a long-term trend in the district. Most of that drop will be at the secondary school level, where 345 fewer students are expected, according to a report by Bill Hamblett, assistant superintendent.

“It’s a real wait-and-see,” cautioned Alison Sidow, district superintendent, explaining that numbers won’t be firmed up until later in September.

Last year, for example, enrolment across the province rose unexpectedly for the first time in years, she said. They encourage parents to register students early, but lives do change, she added. Often, families that relocate during summer don’t register students until the last minute.

School registration for new students started Tuesday, Aug. 30, and continues to Thursday, Sept. 1.

The total number of students in the district, if projected figures hold true, will drop to 13,542 from 13,921 in 2015.

While domestic enrolment continues to decline, international enrolment is headed in the opposite direction, though it doesn’t significantly offset the overall trend.

Since District 73 introduced its international education program, enrolment has grown from about 20 students in 1998 to 150 for this school year, coming from 18 countries. Additional marketing overseas is believed to have boosted numbers.

Sahali secondary has the most international students, 65, while Clearwater secondary has just joined the program, welcoming two students this year.

In an update on the program, assistant superintendent Rob Schoen recommended that the district establish a goal of 300 students and that a district principal should be appointed to lead that growth.

The graduation survey is filled out by a majority of grads before they leave school. Not surprisingly, TRU is the post-secondary school of preference, figuring in the plans of 44 percent of district grads. Another 23 percent attend post-secondary institutions or training programs elsewhere. Fully 21 percent list “other,” meaning the military, sports or travel.

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