Enrolment is up slightly as students and staff prepare for another year in the classrooms in communities throughout School District 5.
SD5 Superintendent Lynn Hauptman says staff are projecting roughly 5,300 enrolled students this semester, as the school year kicks off on Tuesday, Sept. 5.
“We are getting some rumours that we might have a few more in the eastern part of our district, in Sparwood and Rocky Mountain, so we’ll wait and see what happens on that first day of school,” Hauptman said.
Much of that growth is concentrated at the elementary-school level as families continue to move into the region, she added.
“We know the City of Fernie is one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada, so that’s certainly where we’re seeing growth and that’s kind of happening across the board as people are moving in,” Hauptman said. “For the most part, we have more at elementary level, some of our middle schools are also creeping up there as well.
“It is kind of more generalized across the district, but when looking at who is up and who is down, it’s mostly our elementary schools that are up.”
According to a report from the provincial government, the Southeast Kootenay District had a headcount of 5,474 students in the 2016/17 year, however, that also includes enrolment in private and independent schools as well as the public system.
Last fall, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the BC Teachers’ Federation in a long-running court dispute with the provincial government over class size and composition. The ruling restored language and staffing levels stripped out a collective bargaining agreement dating back to 2002
Since that ruling was handed down, Hauptman said the district anticipated and planned for the staffing increase that was mandated by the decision, which translated into 23 additional positions.
“We started really early last spring, as soon as we could get out of the gate, we did so we could fill most of our positions then,” she said.
There may be a few positions to fill before the semester starts given summer retirements or other factors such as medical leave, but that’s not atypical of years past, Hauptman added.
The district has also been busy rearranging spaces in schools to accommodate for classroom and staffing expansions.
“Our maintenance department has been very busy over the summer,” Hauptman said. “We had to create some new classroom spaces throughout the district, we had to reclaim some rooms that have been used for other things to put them back to classrooms. We had to create some small offices in other spaces, because in some cases we’ve had whole classrooms just being used for office-type things, and we also had to order three new portables.”
New staff is going through orienteering and school administration — principals and vice-principals — are also meeting to prepare for the new year.
“The work that we’ve been doing over over the last few years with the implementation of the renewed curriculum is continuing, so we’re very happy about that because our district is doing some incredible work to really engage our students in their learning,” Hauptman said.