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As teachers vote on tentative deal, independent schools report increased enrollment

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – It’s the day teachers in our province vote on whether they want to accept a tentative agreement with the government — and the day students find out whether they’ll finally get a start to their new school year.

And after five months of job action, independent schools say they now have a pretty good idea of how the labour strife has affected enrollment.

Peter Froese with the Federation of Independent School Associations of BC says the overall increase in the province is five per cent over last year.

In parts of central and northern BC, he says there are now 12 per cent more students. In the Okanagan and Kootenay region, there’s been an increase of 13 per cent.

“That’s explainable because in those areas, there is capacity in the schools to accept new students. And so we see a higher percentage of growth,” explains Froese.

He adds the increase in the lower Fraser Valley is just over six per cent. “But when we look at Greater Vancouver, we’re seeing a growth of just under three per cent.”

“We expected that because in Vancouver — in the Metro area — we’re finding that the majority of our schools are already at capacity, and so the opportunity to enrol new students at this time is difficult,” says Froese.

He notes there is about a four per cent increase for Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and the Sunshine Coast.

Froese says they’ve seen significant growth in distributed learning schools, where students take their courses from home.

“But there, I’m not so sure we would say that that enrolment is solid. It could be that families were using that as an option [while] waiting out the strike or the conclusion of the strike, in which case some of those families will potentially go back to the public sector.”

“However, in our experience, based on past labour disruptions in the public sector, we find that the families that have chosen independent schools in… our fixed structures — they tend to stay,” he adds.

Results of the vote by BC public teachers are expected tonight.

The deal includes a 7.25 per cent salary increase and an education fund to help deal with class size and composition issues.