(News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo school district headed toward 26-per cent overcapacity in next 10 years

Using B.C. Assessment and municipal stats, consultant projects more than 18,300 students in 2030

Enrolment has been trending up after years of declining numbers and Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district is projecting a surge of students in the next decade.

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is projecting 14,360 full-time students estimated for 2021-22 and 14,845 in 2022-23, based on the district’s regular projection methods. However, that could skyrocket, as a long-term enrolment report from a consultant forecasts the district being 26 per cent overcapacity in 2030-31 with 18,383 students.

Aaron Licker, principal at Licker Geospatial Consultants, told school trustees at the February business committee meeting that the company used urban growth and housing preference to project student population.

“We used the trends from historic residence data to develop a reasonable forecast of student occupancies,” said Licker. “We know, for every dwelling type, how many students live in each one of those.”

He said overall there are about 0.2 students per single-family dwelling in the district, “so for every five houses, one student.”

When asked about the Island’s reputation as a retirement destination and whether data suggested any changing demographics, Licker said there was nothing substantive to report.

“What we found was the number of students in relation to the number of dwellings was going up, so what does that mean? Obviously, you’re seeing more children per dwelling in the community,” said Licker. “We also saw that the number of children per new dwelling was going up as well, which again suggests that if someone built something new a family’s going to fill it.”

He said recently released data from Statistics Canada shows that 95-100 per cent of population growth in the Nanaimo area is driven by intra- and inter-provincial migration.

“People are moving to Nanaimo like crazy right now,” he said.

In terms of existing population, there are more deaths than births currently, according to Licker, which “is being well offset by people moving to the community.”

Bayview Elementary School is currently 20 per cent under capacity, according to the report, and predicted to be 55 per cent overcapacity come 2030-31. Licker said the City of Nanaimo is projecting “gigantic growth” in downtown core neighbourhoods.

“There’ll be a lot of in-fill development in that area,” he said. “We aren’t forecasting a lot of high-rise apartments in some of those inner-core neighbourhoods and as a result, because we’re going to produce nice ground-oriented development or secondary suites, we’re going to see a lot more kids coming out of those.”

B.C. Assessment, school district staff and staff from municipalities within the district assisted in the report.

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