(From left) Breanna Tannar

(From left) Breanna Tannar

Schools cope with influx of students

Albion elementary still had to turn some away

Teachers, principals, and administrators have had their hands full as thousands of students made their way back to school this week.

Superintendent Jan Unwin said schools this year have seen relatively few issues as most parents have been able to enroll their children in the elementary school of their choice.

“I don’t want to jinx myself, but everything’s been really good, going really smoothly so far,” Unwin said Thursday.

At Albion elementary, parents were lined up outside prior to school opening on Tuesday in the hopes of registering their children in kindergarten at the school.

“We have a good reputation, so a lot of parents want to send their children here,” said Albion principal Ron Lanzarotta.

“And everyday there’s more families moving to this area.”

Currently, Albion elementary has 555 students enrolled at the school, despite being built for around 425. The school has had to install five portable classrooms to accommodate the overflow.

Initially, the district had planned for there to be three kindergarten classes at the school, however, that was expanded to four.

Despite adding an extra class, some parents were still turned away.

Schools offering French immersion programs also experienced line-ups, Unwin said.

“At the end of the day, we had the number of kids we thought would show up, they just didn’t show up in the exact places we thought they would,” she said.

The majority of schools across the district still have excess student space, Unwin noted.

The district will be operating a school bus service for students in east Maple Ridge to make it easier to attend nearby schools with extra space, such as Blue Mountain, Webster’s Corners, and Harry Hooge elementary schools.

The student population in the local school district is expected to fall by about 200 to 300 kids this year, a smaller decline than the district has seen in the past.

“Our projections are almost bang-on so far,” Unwin said. “But there’s usually a lot of shuffling around for a week or two.”

While Unwin is thankful the ongoing decline in student enrollment is starting to bottom out, she added that it will be a long time before the district reaches maximum enrollment levels.

“It should start creeping up soon, maybe starting in 2013, 2014, or 2015, but there’s no sign of it being what it was anytime soon,” she said.

As a result, Unwin says the district has no plans to consider closing more schools.

“Certainly not anytime in the near future,” she said.