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COVID interrupts school enrolment increase

By Don Fennell

Published 12:03 PST, Thu February 18, 2021

After five years of decline, student enrolment is beginning to pick up again in the Richmond School District.

There was a modest increase in the last school year, and board chair Sandra Nixon says that is expected to continue.

However, Nixon noted this year’s enrolment numbers have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, with enrolment decreasing by the equivalent of 150 full-time students when compared to projections.

“As a result of the pandemic and travel restrictions, we’ve also seen a 30 per cent decrease in international education student enrolment from the previous year,” she said. “However, the district is projecting that out-of-district and international enrolment will gradually return to pre-pandemic levels over the next three years.”

Nixon doesn’t expect the current drop in enrolment to have a critical impact on the district when it comes to provincial funding. But she said since funding is on a per-pupil basis, it has resulted in the district receiving a lower operating grant (about $1.9 million less than projected) from the Education Ministry.

Population demographics, residential development and immigration levels all indicate that student enrolment will increase steadily over the next five years, Nixon said, allowing that projections could be impacted by the socio-political environment, provincial economy, and other factors.

“We anticipate the increase in enrolment will have positive effects overall for the district,” she said. “In addition to an increase in revenues, more students also means we would be hiring more teachers, which enhances our schools’ ability offer a wider variety of courses, especially at the secondary level. Our international students also bring a wonderful diversity to our classrooms and provide all students with a richer educational experience, through encountering a variety of backgrounds, cultures and perspectives.”

With the central registration office currently closed to the public, signing up for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years has gone online.

Residents can use the online form www.sd38.bc.ca/student-registration to submit an application. A staff member will contact parents or legal guardians by phone to discuss more details.

Registration for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students for the 2021-22 school year is also now open.

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