Decline slows in school enrollments

Enrolment at Clearwater Secondary and other North Thompson schools appears to be stabilizing

Enrolment at Clearwater Secondary and other North Thompson schools appears to be stabilizing, according to principal Darren Coates.

This is in line with a trend in School District 73 as well as across much of the province.

“The enrolment for this school year was projected to be 184, which turned out to be pretty close,” he said. “For next year it’s projected to be 174 but I think it will level out then.

The number of Grade 12s leaving will be about the same as the number of Grade 7s coming in.”

Declining enrolment has been a problem for quite a few years, Coates said, pointing out that in 1999 there were 439 students attending CSS, more than twice the number as today.

This has made for difficult budgeting. However, one advantage has been that there is now plenty of room in the school for innovative programs.

Whether enrollments go up or down is very much dependent on the North Thompson Valley’s economy, Coates noted.

Stabilizing enrolment appears to be the pattern for School District 73 as well, according to information released during a presentation on the school district’s preliminary operating budget held April 21.

The presentation was made in the SD73 office boardroom in Kamloops but was sent by videoconference to Clearwater and Chase. An attempt to send it to Barriere as well failed due to a power outage in that community.

Enrolment in the school district is predicted to go down by 312 full-time equivalent students (from nearly 14,000 to about 13,600), secretary-treasurer Kelvin Stretch reported.

Each of those students is funded for over $7,000 by the province, so the decline means a reduction of over $2.2 million to the school district’s budget.

Other cost increases, such as rising electricity bills, mean the potential shortfall could be $2.45 million.

Total budget for the school district is about $134 million.

The Ministry of Education has directed all school boards across the province to cut administrative costs. However, SD73 has already cut how much it spends on administrators as compared to many other districts.

One positive note for the district is $1.25 million from an overpayment into the teacher pension plan. This has been applied to the shortfall.

Despite the difficulties, the school board staff were confident that they would be able to maintain class sizes, school supports and other educational components.