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Enrolment in BC schools down once again

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Enrolment numbers in BC schools continue to drop. Province-wide, the population has declined by more than 70,000 students since the 2001-2002 school year.

Preliminary numbers for the school year that started today show a loss of nearly 6,000 students in BC compared to actual enrolment in the 2012-2013 school year.

“But we’re seeing the trend is starting to flatten out in some areas and we are projecting growth,” says Education Minister Peter Fassbender. “Surrey, right now, is down about 31 students from what they had projected.”

“We’re also anticipating some growth in the next couple of years because of the growth in the community,” he adds.

But Vancouver is projecting a loss of about 1,000 students this school year; School Board Chair Patti Bacchus says that number could have a significant impact on funding in for the 2013-2014 budget.

“$8,000 per student is the approximate funding when you add-in the different grants,” she says.

The provincial government estimates the per-student total to be $8,603.

Either way, the numbers represent a loss of about $8 million to this year’s school operating budget in the city. But even if those numbers hold, don’t expect cuts at Vancouver schools to be equal. Both the education minister and the school board chair say there are signs of growth in some areas.

“Downtown Vancouver is booming,” says Bacchus. “Our schools are full. We have families on waiting lists who are having to go out of our community to go to school.”

She notes UBC has also recorded growth. A new high school opened in that community last year and a new elementary school is expected to open next year.

“We do have other parts of the city where we have almost empty-nester communities now,” she says.

“They raised their families, the parents are still there, students have moved on,” she says.

Bacchus says the school board anticipates growth in the city in years to come, in neighbourhoods like Oakridge and Marine Drive.

“It’s not always easy to predict where families will choose to live,” she says. “But we do work closely with the City of Vancouver planners and with the Ministry of Eduction to try to get ahead of that and be ready to accommodate students.”

Funding for BC schools for 2013-2014 will be determined after a final count, which is to be done on September 30th.

The provincial government says the overall education budget is stable. It’s allocated $4.725 billion, the same figure as last year.

Enrollment statistics from the provincial government
For 2013-14, school districts forecast there will be:

• 525,692 school-age, full-year students in B.C.’s public schools. This is down 8,999 students from the Sept. 2012-13 forecast (534,691) and down 5,824 students from the final 2012-13 actual enrolment (531,516).

• 54,212 self-identified Aboriginal students, down 125 students compared to 2012-13 actual enrolment of 54,337.

• 24,215 students with special needs, down 81 students compared to 2012-13 actual enrolment of 24,296.

• 58,971 English Language Learning (ELL) students, down 77 students compared to actual 2012-13 enrolment of 59,048.

• 5,972 adult students, an enrolment increase of more than 1,000 from 4,969 in 2012-13.