Latest enrolment figures from the school district are promising. (Citizen file)

Latest Cowichan Valley enrolment figures are promising: district officials

With more teachers than ever because of Bill 28, there are extra opportunities for these new students as well

Student enrolment continues to climb in the Cowichan Valley, especially in the south end.

The Cowichan Valley School District (SD 79) welcomed more than 200 new students this year, making this the third straight year of enrolment growth for the district, according to district communications specialist Katie McLaughlin.

With provincial education funding doled out on a per-student basis, more students mean more dollars.

She sent out a report as the district closed for a holiday break, saying that “some of the schools experiencing the largest growth this year include Frances Kelsey Secondary (26.75 full time equivalent (FTE), George Bonner Elementary (25 FTE) and Bench Elementary (23 FTE) and Chemainus Elementary (33 FTE).

“This year, there are just over 7,800 FTE students across the school district, up from the 7,594 funded by the Ministry of Education last year.”

A really important “snapshot” of student numbers is taken Sept. 30 every year. Then, these numbers are double checked and the findings released near Christmas.

According to McLaughlin, there are 4,631 students in district elementary schools (an increase of 112); 2,727 students in secondary schools (an increase of 29); and 308 students in the alternate program (a decrease of 15).

“There are also 136 learners enrolled in the district’s dual credit, distributed learning, and adult program — programs that are also seeing growth. These counts do not include the estimated 230 students who will be part of the district’s international student program this year.

“The board of education is incredibly pleased to see another year of enrolment growth; this is fantastic news for our schools and our communities,” said board chair Candace Spilsbury. “We anticipate growth to continue across our district, and we are engaged in some ongoing work with local and provincial governments to make sure that this growth is factored into community planning and funding opportunities for new schools.”

This year’s enrolment figures include more than 100 FTEs of unanticipated enrolment growth, which, on top of the new class size and composition requirements, put some additional pressures on schools in the district. The most significant jump in enrolment this year was in the elementary grades, particularly across Grades 4-7.

“We have an incredible public education system in our district, and it’s exciting to see that more and more kids are getting an opportunity to experience what we have to offer,” said schools superintendent Rod Allen. “We also welcomed a number of new teachers and staff to our district this year, thanks to enrolment increases and class size and composition requirements. Even though quick growth can bring along some challenges, it’s an exciting opportunity for all of us.”

Recognizing the Cowichan Valley is experiencing continued growth, the school district contracted a demographer who completed a report in October that outlined enrolment projections and areas of growth across the district. This report will be used by the Board of Education and district staff as an important planning tool, and will be key in ensuring that growth is factored into local area planning, and district facility planning.

The report can be viewed online: changing-school-capacities/.

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