The Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district is among several B.C. districts seeing an increase in enrolment this year.
The district was not expecting much, if any, growth this year and says managing the increase is much better than managing a regression.
It says the jump is largely driven by a growing number of immigrant and refugee students in the primary grades.
“We’re seeing significant growth in our secondary schools, and we’ve actually had a surprise bump, again preliminary, in our elementary as well, so across the board we’re seeing growth,” said Mark Walsh, the district’s secretary-treasurer.
It amounts to an expected 200 additional students in secondary and up to 40 in elementary. Walsh says it’s a positive challenge because each extra student brings in extra provincial funding, roughly $8,000 per student.
“Our costs don’t necessarily go up by the full cost of the student, and so if a school adds two students for instance, you wouldn’t necessarily need to add a new teacher,” said Walsh.
“We have to support the students, but those dollars are there to support the entirety of the system.”
And Nanaimo is just one of the school districts seeing an enrolment increase in the region.
The Comox Valley school district expects to grow by 400 students, Cowichan by 77, and Campbell River by 61.
The Qualicum, Pacific Rim and Vancouver Island North school districts say their enrolments will be about the same as last year.
With so many new students enrolling comes the need for new teachers, and that’s something Nanaimo’s Teachers’ Association is applauding the school district for.
“The school district did a wonderful job of recruiting teachers, but as we’re aware there’s a global teacher shortage, and so the key is going to be retaining staff and incentives that will retain them so things like working conditions,” said Jo Cornthwaite, the association’s president.
It’s a challenge for all school districts as they wait for a final tally of student numbers by the month’s end.
Walsh says he’s hoping for a positive funding announcement from the province about a new Nanaimo District Secondary that would alleviate the school population amid the student growth.