Enrolment is up in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district for the second straight year, by about 180 to 190 students above projections, and the schools are becoming more ethnically diverse.
Superintendent Sylvia Russell gave the school board a report on enrolment last Wednesday.
“Over two years, we’re up 600 students from our projections,” she said.
Last year, enrolment jumped the equivalent 418.5 full-time students more than had been projected.
A staff report identified B.C. families returning from Alberta as a significant reason.
The majority of the students are elementary aged, she said, with “bumps” in grades 3 and 5, in particular.
The district is also becoming more diverse, with an additional 85 students in the English language learners category.
“So now we are at a total of about 530 English language learners, which is pretty significant … “ said Russell.
“So there’s a big jump every year in that group, and it’s growing quickly, and I believe our community is becoming more culturally diverse.”
She noted that the students come from a broad spectrum of cultural backgrounds.
“They do very well in our schools, as long as we get them before Grade 9,” said Russell.
She said more English language learning teachers are being hired in the district.
Declining enrolment had been blamed for budget cuts in the district, as it receives funding from the province on a per pupil basis.
However, board chair Mike Murray cautioned that the rising head count does not necessarily mean more money from Victoria.
“There are no guarantees with respect to additional funding,” he said.
“No, but we’re very hopeful,” responded Russell, adding that the district will find out its final funding numbers on Dec. 15.
Enrolment in the district had been declining, with approximately 14,350 students for the four school years from 2008/09 to 2011/12.
But it dropped to a low of 13,835, before shooting back up to 14,382 in 2015/16.
Russell said she is using the 180-190 approximation because the final numbers have not been tabulated.
Some students who have moved are now registered in more than one district, and the education ministry is still in the process of determining where the students actually attend. The ability for students to enrol online contributes to the number of cross-enrolled situations.