District enrolment on the decline again

Nanaimo school district may have lost more elementary and secondary students than expected this fall.

Nanaimo school district may have lost more elementary and secondary students than expected this fall.

Preliminary numbers released last week indicate that 174 fewer students than district staff budgeted for entered Nanaimo classrooms – in contrast to the numbers released Sept. 6 that indicated there were about 70 more students than projected.

“Definitely the numbers look quite different than they did two weeks ago,” said Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman. “People don’t always let us know when they’re leaving, so it takes a while for us to sort all that out. Even still secondary is going to change before the end of the month.”

Last spring the district predicted it would lose about 46 students, with 7,496 elementary students and 5,599 secondary students returning to classrooms. Preliminary numbers are 7,467 elementary students and 5,454 secondary students – 220 students fewer than were in classrooms last year.

The numbers released last week only include “bricks and mortar” students and numbers from alternate and distance learning programs must still be compiled.

Reimer said one factor in the decline is that about 60 Ladysmith-area students went to the Stz’uminus First Nation’s new community school instead.

Staff will hire someone to conduct a detailed enrolment review, which is done every few years to ensure district projections remain as accurate as possible for budgeting purposes, she added.

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said trustees have asked staff to give the board a rundown on each school’s enrolment, class-by-class, to see where drops have occurred.

He speculated that the drop, if it doesn’t reverse by the end of the month when finalized numbers are submitted to the Education Ministry, could be due to families moving elsewhere to find work.

“Pessimistically I would say we’ve lost some students to the private education sector, that’s probably a factor,” said Brennan. “Part of that could probably be attributed to the chaotic year we had last year.”