Enrolment decline is a reality, says Koop

The question is, what is to be done about it?


Enrolment was stable in School District 69 (Qualicum) in April, an important month for estimating next year’s numbers, but overall the number of students is still declining.

According to the May 24 monthly enrolment update presented to the Board of Education, the total number of students in the district was down 10 over last month to 4,538, said assistant superintendent Rollie Koop. Eight of those were CEAP (Collaborative Education Alternate Program) students completing courses or moving into a school.

But while the numbers look good this month, enrolment in the district has dropped by 10 per cent over the last three years, earning the district “supplementary funding for the significant decline,” Koop reported.

The three year drop is identified by the Ministry of Education, with nine districts currently receiving the supplement.

District 69, which had the second largest drop in the province, will receive $450,000, about half the funds they lost due to the drop in enrolment.

“This highlights the trouble we’re facing in this district,” he told the board and later added that the only district with a bigger drop was Stikine (District 87), in the northwest corner of the province, which is a resource based economy where a single mill closure can create a ghost town.

“We have this drop without being a mill town, or downtown collapsing, this is purely a demographic shift,” he told The News, pointing out the other districts near the top of the list were also more resource dependent than Oceanside, including Prince Rupert, Powell River and Vancouver Island North.

The ministry uses FTE (full-time equivalent) numbers rather than the actual number of student bodies which the district uses more often. By their measure the FTE students dropped from 4,492 in 2008/09 to 4,045 projected for 2011/12.

Koop pointed out that in the longer term, there are fewer students in Grade 9 than this year’s grad class and there are even fewer students in the lower grades.

According to the April enrolment report for example there are currently 520 Grade 12 students in the district and only 253 in Grade 1.

“It underscores what most people are beginning to understand, say what you want about the Matrix report, the fact is we are seeing a decline.”