Southeast Kootenay students returned to classrooms last week with an additional 55 classmates in their midst. (Black Press file photo)

Southeast Kootenay public schools going through a growth spurt

Ministry of Education tips one per cent enrolment increase at public schools in Southeast Kootenay

Enrolment in public schools across the Southeast Kootenay is tipped to increase by one per cent this school year.

Students returned to classrooms last week with an additional 55 classmates in their midst.

At the start of the 2017/18 school year, there were 5500 students enrolled at public schools in School District 5, which includes the Elk Valley and South Country.

The B.C. Ministry of Education expects enrolments to have increased by about one per cent or an additional 55 students this school year, with final enrolment numbers to be released later this fall.

A Ministry spokesman said growth in SD5 was largely attributable to in-migration of students from other school districts in the province.

“While SD5 is not considered a growing area, we do know that there are a few communities that have seen growth in recent years,” he said.

The Ministry is currently reviewing a request from the school district for an addition to Isabella Dicken Elementary in Fernie and extra space at Rocky Mountain Elementary in Elkford.

Growth in SD5 is consistent with the provincial trend.

Enrolment in public schools across B.C. is expected to increase by 0.3 per cent or about 1700 full time equivalent students this school year.

They will be taught by 3700 teachers, with the vast majority of positions already filled, according to the Ministry.

It has invested nearly $1 million to train more teachers, including creating more than 100 additional spaces in teacher education programs over the next two years and supporting initiatives aimed at increasing the number of indigenous teachers throughout British Columbia.

Through the Rural and Remote Workforce Sustainability Fund, the Ministry has also provided $1.5 million to address recruitment and retention issues in rural school districts, plus $500,000 for the BC Public School Employers’ Association to offer centrally-coordinated recruitment supports to rural school districts, such as regional marketing and recruitment fairs.

School runs until December 21 when students break for winter vacation before resuming classes on January 7, 2019.

Fernie school’s growing pains

A Fernie public school is feeling the squeeze as the student population swells to nearly 500 pupils.

Isabella Dicken Elementary School welcomed 472 students last week – 28 more than projected – including 75 Grade 1s.

The school has hired a new teacher and added another portable classroom to accommodate growth, which principal NicoleNeufeld attributed to new families moving to town.

“From what I’ve seen from people that have come into the doors to register, it’s people moving to town and then a smallgroup of them are students who are switching schools,” she said.

Isabella Dicken added two staff and two portables for the 2017/18 school year, and expects to hire more staff next year.

“If the growth continues the way it has been, there will be at least one teacher next year but probably more because theprojections for kindergarten, it was a big birth year so they’re projecting over 90 kindergartens next year,” said Neufeld.

“In my 10 years of being here we’ve just steadily grown and it’s just a very vibrant school. We joke at our staff meetings thatwe’re bursting with enthusiasm – we’re bursting but we have lots of enthusiasm… it hasn’t really affected what goes onalthough we’re feeling the squeeze.”

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