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Enrolment on the rise in the Sea to Sky

District Parent Advisory Council seeks new chair


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Enrolment is up in the Sea to Sky School District.

While numbers are still being finalized, the district saw an increase of 129 students compared to the same time last year, according to district superintendent Lisa McCullough.

In some cases, like at Don Ross Middle School in Squamish, the increases caught the district off guard.

"We were anticipating somewhere down around 510 students, and right now we're up around 575," McCullough said. "They are going to be seeing some adjustments I would say over the next couple of days."

Enrolment in Whistler is up about 35 students overall across each of its three schools.

"It's spread out a little bit though so it hasn't looked like a huge shift of any of the schools," McCullough said.

Myrtle Philip saw 14 more students than what was projected, and had to bring an extra teacher on board.

Renovations were done last spring to prepare a new space for that eventuality.

"We weren't sure we would need the space, but we did prepare it, and sure enough, yes we did... and they put in an additional teacher to accommodate the numbers," McCullough said.

The district works with a demographer to project how many new students will be coming in each year. Officials also talk with the councils in each community and keep track of impending developments.

So where are all these new students coming from?

"That's the part that we're working on over the next week or so," McCullough said.

"We've got lots that have come from the Lower Mainland, and coming from academies there... we have lots of kids that have been in the private system that are coming back over to Don Ross, and of course I think we have a lot of new people moving into the area."

The increase is in line with what's been in seen in recent years, she added.

"Where we think we're at right now with our head count is over 4,800 students," she said, noting it wasn't too long ago that they were hovering around 4,200.

While Whistler and Squamish saw increases, Pemberton enrolment is down this year due to families moving out of the area, McCullough said.

According to a release from the Canadian Parents for French, the district set a new record for French Immersion enrolment with 802 students registered in the program — 16 per cent of the student body.

"But some of that is due to the fact that we are offering French Immersion at more grade levels now," McCullough said, adding that the district is still gathering its own information on the growth of its French Immersion program.

The District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) is in need of a new chair, as former chair Margot Murdoch has stepped aside.

The DPAC meets three times a year to share ideas and info, Murdoch said.

"It's not a big commitment. The only challenge in it is... it's very difficult to speak for all parents," she said.

Other educating partners — like McCullough and the teachers' union — attend the meetings as well, and the DPAC provides questions ahead of time to give them time to prepare.

"They could be anywhere from what the field trip policies are about, or how do we spend our money on technology, how do we make it fair and equitable, to disciplinary issues or French Immersion issues," Murdoch said.

"It allows us time in person to have these discussions. It's always been quite productive and informative."

Anyone interested in getting involved or taking over as DPAC chair should get in touch with their school's Parent Advisory Council, Murdoch said.

"I think it's a great district," she said. "It's a very good working relationship with the school board staff and with the trustees."