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Student numbers up for district

Trend of declining student numbers expected to reverse



After several years of declining student numbers in Sea to Sky's school district the number of kids starting school is on the rise.

Overall student numbers have increased to 4,194 for both elementary and secondary schools, up from 4,113 the previous year.

According to Nancy Edwards, interim secretary-treasurer, the district has seen declining enrollment numbers over recent years "just like most school districts in the province."

However, there are signs that things are turning around.

"We did a review about four or five years ago where we really started to examine birth rates and so on... we did a quite extensive review of it, and we found that there were a lot of young people with young children in the corridor. The number of children born doubled in on year, so we have been expecting an increase in enrollment."

As a result of the recent baby boom to hit the district, enrollment is increasing at the elementary level even as the number of secondary students continues to drop. For the first time in several years there are more children entering kindergarten than there are students leaving school at the end of the year.

"My personal belief is we're going to see numbers increasing for the next little while, providing people stay in the corridor when children are born," said Edwards.

School boards and schools receive money based on the number of students, and full classrooms mean more resources for the school to spend on programs, field trips and other educational opportunities like French Immersion. High schools can also offer more classes to students, including art and music.

School districts around the province have been struggling in recent years to balance budgets, as operating costs have remained the same while the number of students has been dropping. From 2001 to 2009, some 176 public schools in B.C - mostly in urban areas - have been closed by school districts, which found it was more economical to concentrate children at fewer schools rather than spreading them out.

Edwards said there is lots of capacity at local schools for the new students. As well, higher numbers of students from the area will likely increase the schools' capacity for foreign students.

"We do have a lot of physical capacity, especially at the secondary schools because the student population has decreased so dramatically. We also have to consider the mix of the student population - even if we have the physical capacity, there are certain other factors we take into consideration when determining how many international students we can accept in each school, and one of them is ensuring a good mix of both residents and visiting students."



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