School district numbers are up

Schools of choice gives students more learning options

Mission Public Schools

More than 5,550 students headed back to school in Mission this month, a slight increase in the numbers projected back in May.

The figures are adjusted daily and the final head count won’t be determined until the end of September when school districts submit the information to the Ministry of Education for funding.

The news is generally good and we are quite pleased, said Mission school board vice-chair Jim Taylor, who noted while there is a decline in secondary school students, there is an increase in elementary school numbers.

We had a bigger Gr. 12 class last year and the Grade 11 numbers are higher than the Gr.10s, added Taylor, who doesn’t anticipate the trend to reverse until 2015 or even 2020. “It’s not uncommon across the province.”

The increase in numbers this year means there will be additional funding in the district’s budget.

The boost in elementary-aged students can partly be attributed to the new schools of choice. Last May trustees approved turning Edwin S. Richards school on Cherry Avenue into a fine arts centre and Hillside school into traditional school.

ESR is now full and closed for registrations. Anyone interested in attending the school will now be put on a waiting list.

Hillside also has more students than last year, but Windebank, which is not a school of choice, continues to struggle. Windebank is the catchment school for those living in the ESR and Hillside areas who don’t want to attend a specialized school.

“Windebank loss one class this year, which is way less than expected,” said board chair Edie Heinrichs.

Also new this school year is the creation of an alternate learning centre at Fraserview school on Seventh Avenue for middle and high school students.

We had hoped for 30 kids, but we have 40 schedules for interviews this week, said Taylor, who used to teach at the alternate school in Cedar Valley before it closed in 2007.

“We have students asking if they can sign up,”said Heinrichs.

“There’s a philosophical shift back to believing there are some kids that function better in an alternate setting,” explained Taylor. “It’s not negative.”

Heinrichs agrees. “All kids don’t fit into a regular school system. This is very individualized.”

Taylor expects the program will expand once it has been established, and believes students will work well with the community groups, such as Lifetime Learning Centre, that have offices there.

With the school district meeting its financial expectations, Heinrichs hopes the board will not have to consider any school closures this year.

“I don’t think we’ll be visiting that because our urban schools are full,” she said. “The schools out east are too important to consider. They’re not just schools, they’re a community centre.”

All schools will be included in an overall facilities utilization review, which will begin in October.