An unexpected enrolment increase in the Mission school district has been confirmed by the Ministry of Education, bringing with it around $1 million in new funding.
The number of students in Mission’s public schools had been dropping for years, and the district had been expecting enrolment to decline by around 25 students this year. Instead, counts at the start of the school year saw the number of students increase by 139 to a total of 5,535. The increase was completely unexpected and defied years of declining student numbers.
The additional funds have already been allocated both to increase staffing levels and to purchase equipment for the new combined high school.
Secretary-treasurer Wayne Jefferson pointed to two possible triggers for the enrolment increase: the creation of a single high school, and more people moving to the area, possibly because of lower house prices compared to Lower Mainland municipalities further west.
Across the Fraser River, Abbotsford also saw a dramatic and unexpected surge in the number of students. There, administrators had projected a 48-student decrease, but instead found themselves absorbing 190 more students into local schools.
Back in Mission, administrators had been projecting declines for years to come.
“We had no light at the end of the tunnel,” Jefferson said.
Now, unexpectedly, the tunnel is in the rearview and darkness has given way to light. The question now is how long can it last.
To that end, administrators will be closely watching the next count in nine months time to see if the 2015 enrolment surge was an anomaly or a sign of things to come.
“We think this may be a reversal of the declining enrolment trend,” Jefferson said, before cautioning that “This is only one year.”