(File Photo)

Student enrolment stabilizes in Coast Mountain School District

But graduating students still outnumber those starting school

Coast Mountains School District enrolment crept up this year compared to 2017, reversing what had been a years-long decline.

Figures as of the end of September indicate enrolment is now 4,225, a modest increase over the 4,197 students as of September 2017 and the 4,211 students who were enroled as of September 2016.

This September’s figures fall within projections set out by the school district.

Enrolment had been dropping for years throughout the district which takes in Kitimat, Terrace, the Hazeltons and Stewart, a sign of a declining economy and families having fewer children.

There were 4,211 students registered in 2016, 4,385 in 2015, 4,674 in 2014 and 4,882 in 2013.

At one time, even a decade ago, the enrolment total was twice what it has been in the past several years.

But while the number is up however slightly over last year, there are still more students graduating than entering the system, said CMSD human resources director Cam MacKay.

This year’s Grade 12 student total is 412 compared to the 315 kindergarten students who are registered.

MacKay did note that while the number of graduating students is higher compared to those entering, Grade 12 numbers are a bit skewed because grad rates are higher in the past three years than first anticipated.

The district has also experienced more students in Grade 11 and 12 coming here from both public and private schools in other northern school districts who have lost teachers moving to jobs down south with the result being a reduction in course offerings.

“Some families have either moved or are sending their older children — Grade 11-12 — to live with family in our district to complete their Grade 12 and have more options on a face to face basis with teachers,” he said.

Overall the district is predicting enrolment to hover between 3,950 and 4,100 students for the next several years.

In the upper grades, numbers are starting to stabilize this year with 369 students in Grade 8, 362 in Grade 9, 366 in Grade 10 and 379 in Grade 11.

The Grade 7 to Grade 9 Skeena Middle School in Terrace continues to have the highest enrolment of all schools — 567 students this year compared to 561 last year.

MacKay said it is still a bit too early to predict enrolment increase impacts arising from the LNG Canada facility now announced for Kitimat.

“LNG personnel indicated we would see an increase in time — four to six years — from the operations side of the project with possible spinoffs that may also be a modest increase,” he said.

“On the whole we are not expecting it to be unmanageable space-wise.”

Of a more immediate concern to the school district is teacher recruitment, a challenge that began two years ago when the provincial government increased education budgets in every school district to create more teaching positions.

That was the result of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling which reversed cuts brought in more than a decade ago which increased both class sizes and the number of special needs students in classrooms.

There aren’t enough teachers to fill the new positions and that’s pitted northern districts against southern ones.

“The issue across the province at this time and particularly in the north is the lack of teachers currently available,” said MacKay.

The district did manage to fill many vacant positions this fall and is now looking for a full-time French Immersion teacher for Skeena Middle School and is looking to bolster its on-call substitute teacher pool.

“The recent increase in housing and rent costs in Kitimat and Terrace is not helping with recruitment,” MacKay added.

End of September enrolment figures are crucial for the school district because they’re used by the provincial government to set district budgets based on a dollar amount per student.

In Kitimat Nechako Elementary has 218 students this year compared to 222 last year while Kildala Elementary has 225 students this year compared to 216 in 20017. Kitimat City High’s enrolment is now 60 and was 47 in 2017. Mount Elizabeth Middle/Secondary School has 439 students this year and had 426 last year.

Just Posted

Kitimat resident is Conservative choice for fall election

Claire Rattée is a former Kitimat councillor

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

LNG Canada sponsors driver’s license training in Terrace, Kitimat

The $80,000 contribution is part of the company’s commitment to hire locally

Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project searches for partners

TransCanada is renewing permits for its natural gas pipeline project to North Coast.

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Searchers return to avalanche-prone peak in Vancouver to look for snowshoer

North Shore Rescue, Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog teams and personnel will be on Mt. Seymour

Market volatility, mortgages loom over upcoming earnings of Canada’s big banks

Central bank interest hikes have padded the banks’ net interest margins

Hearings into SNC-Lavalin affair start today, but not with Wilson-Raybould

She has repeatedly cited solicitor-client privilege to refuse all comment

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

B.C. pot giant Tilray to acquire hemp food company Manitoba Harvest for up to $419 million

Tilray will pay $150 million in cash and $127.5 million in stock.

Tears, flowers at impromptu memorial for Syrian children killed in Halifax fire

The family had only lived in the Quartz Drive home for a few months

NDP candidates push for stronger climate action as Singh supports LNG Canada

Singh has tried to project unity in the party while facing internal criticism for poor fundraising and low support in the polls

Rod Taylor reflects on 2019 federal election

The Christian Heritage Party is aiming to run 100 candidates in upcoming election

Most Read