A two-decade decline in enrolment could turn around in the Kamloops-North Thompson School District, though a closer count won’t be possible until kids are back in class on Tuesday.
The district had forecast a drop of 386 students entering kindergarten this year, but early registration figures suggest that may not be the case at all.
“Right now, everybody thinks it will be way up,” said Karl deBruijn. “What we don’t is how many families moved away over the course of the summer.”
Enrolment is always difficult to pin down until numbers are firmed up a few weeks into the school year. The count is much more than an academic exercise for school districts since the count determines per pupil funding from the provincial government. Changes also require a corresponding shift in teaching resources to ensure class sizes are maintained.
On top of this, school enrolment serves as a barometer for population, demographics, economic trends and overall community stability in the long term. With an economic downturn in the Alberta oil patch, Kamloops has seen an influx of workers and their families over the course of the spring and summer.
“We’ve been, I think, in decline in Kamloops-North Thompson for at least the last 16 or 17 years, ever since the amalgamation with the North Thompson,” deBruijn said.
That trend was projected to shift with a turnaround and slight increase until 2018-2019. At that point the numbers would level off again until 2030.
While elementary and secondary classes begin on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. (except kindergarten), teachers and administrative staff have been back at school for the past week in preparation. For exceptions to this rule, see the footnote below.
On Tuesday, will pick up all students two hours later than normal for the 10:30 a.m. start, and deliver elementary students home about two hours earlier than normal. Secondary and middle school students will be picked up from school at the normal time following 3 p.m. dismissal.
“The first day of school is an abbreviated day, a day to welcome kids back, but also a day to do a physical count. The elementary numbers are pretty much solidified by the end of the first week.”
The secondary count, which is expected to continue a downward trend, is a more complex calculation. One secondary student may count for more than one full-time equivalent student and there is a total of 1,208 secondary classes across the district, deBruijn noted.
Hiring for 90 vacant school district positions is taking place right down to the wire.
“Right now, the human resources department is working frantically trying to ensure we’re filling all of the positions.”
Students will arrive to find clean schools and teachers ready to get their classes into session.
“There will be a welcoming group to look after them — qualified, competent teachers ready and happy to have them there.”
For the last time in 108 years, students will be climbing the front steps of Stuart Wood elementary. The heritage building, owned by the City of Kamloops, will remain but as of next year its students head up the hill to the Beattie campus. At that time, current Beattie arts students will be united with their older peers at John Peterson school and South Kamloops secondary will be consolidated into one building.
Stuart Wood elementary opened its doors in 1907 as Kamloops Public School, when Kamloops had been incorporated for just 16 years. The City has yet to decide what it will do with the building once it is vacated by the school district.
- For details on district kindergarten starts, parents are advised to contact their specific schools.
- Brocklehurst middle school: Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 10:30 a.m. for Grade 7 and leadership students only; Wednesday, Sept. 9, 8:30 a.m. start for all students at Brocklehurst Middle School.
- Westwold elementary: New students may register at Westwold elementary on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
- All elementary schools (rural and in-town) will dismiss students at noon.
- Secondary in-town schools and Brocklehurst middle school will dismiss students at 3 p.m.
- Rural secondary schools will dismiss students at 12:30 p.m.