Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools has 259 more students than originally anticipated, according to an early enrolment count by the school district.
The district had already forecasted an additional 82 full-time equivalent students in its 2019-20 budget, but in preliminary numbers submitted to the B.C. Ministry of Education made available at the district Nov. 13 business committee meeting, approximately 14,294 full-time equivalents were recorded, meaning an addition of 177 students.
“The overall change in FTE, which is 176.608 FTE, that converts to $2.9 million,” said Taunia Sutton, school district director of finance, at the meeting. “Those monies have now been absorbed into the budget to mitigate the increased levels of staffing that we put into place in the month of September for the increased enrolment, as well as the increase to school resources that are required as well for [that] increase of students.”
The school district told the News Bulletin that of the $2.9 million, approximately $1 million went to an increase in average teachers’ salary due to a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in a dispute between the teachers’ union and province related to class size and composition. School district support workers recently ratified a new collective agreement, which amounted to approximately $532,000. Additional education assistants to support students with unique needs will see allocation of about $585,000 and the remaining $783,000 will go toward general resources for schools to account for added enrolment, as well as startup costs for Qwam Qwum Stuwixwulh School, which opened this past fall.
Denise Wood, Nanaimo teachers’ union president, told the News Bulletin the increase in students was somewhat unexpected.
“We’re a community that sees a lot of movement, in and out, and so it’s unusual to have that many students because we’ve only just started in our incline, in population,” said Wood. “But it’s not unusual to have students that we weren’t expecting to have, it’s just a large number of them this year.”
Wood also said that while there is an increase in students, there will only be increased funding to match that and not anything over and above to address challenges of adding students .
In an e-mail, superintendent Scott Saywell said the district’s enrolment projections are generally conservative, as it is easier to add staffing to a school than subtract it. The numbers will be used for further planning, he said.
“The district will be producing an updated enrolment forecast as it embarks on a new long-range facilities plan within the upcoming months,” said Saywell. “It should be emphasized that since the district is growing in enrolment, it has a projected capacity shortfall. It is anticipated that there will be a need to identify capital expansion priorities through the [facilities plan] process.”
The ministry is expected to confirm enrolment data sometime in December, according to the school district, and final numbers will be known in June. The district was unable to provide a breakdown of enrolment per school by press time.