Local school district enrolment continues to decline

Enrolment in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District is slightly ahead of projections, but down overall.

Enrolment in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District is slightly ahead of projections, but down overall.

The number of students is down approximately 163 full-time equivalents (FTEs) from the 2012-2013 enrolment of 14,019 students, but that is 27 more than the district had budgeted for.

The youngest learners are on the increase in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

“The kindergarten numbers are higher than they have been in years,” deputy superintendent Laurie Meston told trustees at their second board meeting of the new school year on Wednesday evening.

She said kindergarten enrolment is at 1,038, which is up from 996 last year.

Based on her personal experience, Meston predicted that next year’s kindergarten signup may be lower than projections.

“I believe it’s because people like to have babies two years apart,” she theorized.

Meston noted secondary enrolment numbers continue to decline.

Even though schools are funded by the education ministry on a per-pupil basis, at a rate of $8,603 per student, the 27 unexpected students will not be a financial windfall for the district.

School districts with declining enrolment – which is most school boards across the province – are “topped up” by a policy called funding protection, explained secretary treasurer Flavia Coughlan.

It is an acknowledgement that boards with declining enrolment still face rising costs due to inflation. The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows district is already receiving funding protection, so the additional students will not create more provincial funding.

She noted that in March the government announced that per pupil funding would increase, but that did not improve the local district’s financial position, because funding protection decreased by a corresponding amount.

The per pupil funding increase meant grants to eight school districts increased, while 52 districts were left to share funding protection of $39 million.

Across B.C., student enrolment has dropped almost 10 per cent since the 2000-2001 school year.

The final numbers for the local school district will be known at the end of September.