Despite underestimating 2021-22 enrolment by 415 full-time students, Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district officials are happy with student numbers.
While the COVID-19 pandemic saw students migrating to the school district’s distance-learning program Island Connect Ed last school year, officials anticipated a return to physical schools in 2021-22. Enrolment of 14,360 full-time students were projected in budget talks, but according to an Oct. 13 staff report, the district reported more than 14,775 students to the B.C. Ministry of Education this month.
At a business committee meeting, Mark Walsh, SD68 secretary-treasurer, said there are a pair of trends that the district is welcoming, including the return to bricks-and-mortar schools, which he said “largely occurred in the way that we thought it would.”
Island Connect Ed enrolment, with 831 kindergarten-Grade 9 full-time students and 80 students from Grade 10-12 last year, decreased to 316 and 54 students respectively, according to the report.
Due to the pandemic, students were educated in cohorts (learning groups), but returned to regular classes this year. It appears high school students are once again taking a regular complement of courses, something Walsh said the district is pleased with.
“Last year, we think largely because of the limitations of cohorts and the fact that a lot of kids could graduate in the third quarter, rather than the second semester, we saw kids not taking full course loads in secondary, which brought our FTE down significantly,” Walsh told trustees. “The combination of increased enrolment [and] increased FTE at our secondaries, is seeing a significant increase in FTE for this district.”
To account for the increases, the school district has added the equivalent of nine full-time elementary school teachers, eight for secondary school and six for alternative programs this year, which will cost $2.8 million, according to the report.
The district estimates enrolment in February for the following school year, with the ministry using information to establish preliminary operating funds in March. The district then submits enrolment data, as of Sept. 30, to the ministry in October.