SD73 hopes enrolment decline has ended

Karl deBruijn believes the region’s declining school enrolment may have finally stopped

By Dale Bass

Kamloops This Week

Karl deBruijn believes the region’s declining school enrolment may have finally stopped.

The superintendent for the Kamloops-Thompson school district said final figures submitted to the Ministry of Education show 13,982 students in the district, which is higher than what was forecast.

Administrators had predicted enrolment to drop by 386 students when classes resumed in September, but the decrease was just 51 students.

The statistics include distance,  adult and continuing education.

Of the 13,982 students in the district, 990 are in kindergarten and 1,255 are in Grade 12.

“We are still graduating more than are coming in,” deBruijn said, noting the average of students per grade is now about 1,000 district-wide, which gives him some comfort the system has stabilized to the reality families are having fewer children.

He attributed much of the unexpected influx of students in September to families moving to Kamloops, with anecdotal evidence they have been attracted to the city for its job opportunities and affordable housing.

There were some unexpected surprises at specific schools.

Arthur Hatton elementary in North Kamloops saw its enrolment rise by  36 students.

“That’s big,” deBruijn said. “It was at 242 last year and that’s a big increase for a small school that has been on the decline since amalgamation [the district closed some schools a few years ago due to declining enrolment].”

In Brocklehurst, Parkcrest elementary is up 20 students, but Kay Bingham elementary unexpectedly showed a decrease of 21 students.

At the secondary level, deBruijn said, Brock middle school went up 52 students and Valleyview secondary saw its population increase by 27. South Kamloops decreased by 74 students and NorKam went down 25 students.

The big concern for the district is in Clearwater, where the secondary school is now at 189 students, having lost 28, and in Barriere, which saw the school population decrease by 17 at the secondary level, although there were 15 new elementary students.

Declining enrolment in rural schools creates its own problems, deBruijn said, because families are often loathe to see their children travel long distances to other schools.

He praised the teaching staff in the two locations for the innovative ways they’re ensuring basic courses like chemistry and physics are still provided through podcasts, video-conferencing and tutoring.

With classes now established, deBruijn said only two of the teachers laid off at the end of the last school term are not working.

Each had been offered job postings, but opted to not accept them.