For the fifth year in a row, Columbia Valley school enrolment is up.
Paul Carriere, Rocky Mountain School District #6 superintendent, says this is good news for Windermere zone schools (Windermere zone runs from Canal Flats to Spillimacheen). Forecasting estimates that modest growth will continue until about 2025.
“The great news is that our communities are supporting more families than has been the case in the recent past, and that has brought more students to our school system and has allowed us to increase the size and diversity of our staff,” says Mr. Carriere.
The school district was formed more than 20 years ago; overall across the three zones (Windermere, Golden, and Kimberley) there was a trend of declining enrolment until the 2014-15 school year.
“What was happening here mirrored a trend that was evident in many school districts. Essentially, as a result of a combination of factors, our School District like many others was faced with school closures and layoffs to manage the situation,” Mr. Carriere says.
He went on to explain that because of school closures, some of the existing schools are now feeling some space pressure.
“However that pressure is not enough for us to require additional buildings,” Mr. Carriere says. “The forecasting that was done during the preparation of the long term facility plan shows that modest growth will continue until about 2025 and then flatten and start to decline again. We will monitor our space situation closely over the few years and adjust as necessary.”
The pattern of increase since 2014 follows a provincial trend of increases in the school-aged population, in part due to in-migration of families from other provinces due to increased economic opportunity, Mr. Carriere explains.
There are about 250 more students in the school system here now than in 2014. Windermere Elementary School (WES) has 134 full-time equivalent (FTE) students; Edgewater has 126. J. Alfred Laird Elementary has 259 while Eileen Madson Primary School has 197. David Thompson Secondary School has approximately 392, with Open Doors adding another 21.5 and Rocky Mountain Distributed Learning with 28.5 FTE.
The rise in enrolment has been noticeable at Martin Morigeau Elementary (MMES), which was hovering between 55 and 59 students and this year is now up at 63 students. Vice Principal Alyssan Gauthier says MMES is feeling pretty full this year with the new students, which have come primarily from other zones and districts.
Ms. Gauthier reports that the Canal Flats K-7 school is in good shape this year, with several teachers returning from maternity leave, some exciting new partnership opportunities planned with the Columbia Lake Technology Centre, and even a new motto.
“We’ve set a new vision for the school since last year,” she reports, adding it was a collaborative effort between students, parents and staff. “Our new vision is MMES: Curiosity, community, character … There’s a different vision now for Canal Flats, and that fits with our vision at Morigeau, so we’re really looking forward to the future.”
The intensive French Program, for students in grade 6, was moved to J.A. Laird from Windermere Elementary School for the 2017/2018 school year following public consultation and discussion. The program currently has 27 students in it; the grade 7 Enhanced French class has 23. Mr. Carriere says the move to Laird has resulted in a higher enrolment rate. The total number of students in grade 6 at WES over the next four years are approximately a third of the total number of grade 6 students at J.A. Laird.
“The Board’s decision to relocate the program was based primarily on the fact that WES did not have enough students in each grade to support a large enough class size to make the program viable in the coming years,” Mr. Carriere says, adding the Board also passed a resolution to enhance equity of access to the program for all students in the zone.
“The Board and Senior Staff of the District recognize and acknowledge that this was a difficult process, in particular for parents of WES students, as the program had operated there since 2008. Ultimately the Board felt it was necessary and appropriate to move the program.”