For the past 10 years, dropping enrolment rates have resulted in funding cuts for the Vernon School District.
But at long last, those numbers are climbing back up.
“When we started declining in enrolment, we predicted that this year would be our turnaround year, but we actually started to increase last year. It’s great news,” said district superintendent Joe Rogers, at Wednesday’s district board meeting.
“It’s fantastic news, as we are out of funding protection so we get more money. We actually have the money this year to pay for what we need and don’t have to use our surplus funds.
“The great news is we are above our projections of FTE (full-time equivalent). During February and June, we get a lot more information — (director of instruction) Diane Rhenisch goes around and finds out how many kids are coming from Vernon Christian School, St. James and Pleasant Valley Academy to give us an idea of numbers.”
The Ministry of Education bases its funding for the district on enrolment: more students means more money.
In February, the district sent its projections to the ministry of 7,820 FTE students from kindergarten to Grade 12. The alternative programs brought projections up to 8,031.
“What we’ve actually ended up with is 8,190 students, so after 10 years of cutting $19 or $20 million dollars, it’s nice to be able to get the money we need to run our programs,” said Rogers. “We have 147 more FTE students than we did last September, so it’s a significant increase in students and a significant increase in funding.”
Rogers said FTE is above the actual head count, as there are a number of students who take a ninth and 10th course, such as music.
Several schools saw significant jumps in enrolment. Lavington elementary increased by 12 students, from 145 to 157. Okanagan Landing elementary is up by 31 students, W.L. Seaton secondary is up by 71 students, Coldstream elementary is up by four; the alternate programs have increased by 18.
“Those are the big numbers, but everybody else really maintained enrolment,” said Rogers.
“This is not based on new kindergarten enrolment — these are new people who have moved into town. My guess is it might have something to do with people moving from Alberta and there’s probably some new hires at the pellet plant.”
District secretary-treasurer Sterling Olson said while there will be staffing changes to correspond with the increase in enrolment, it’s great news for the bottom line, and he plans on bringing a budget update to the next public board meeting Nov. 25
“The key piece is we don’t want people to think we have lots of money now,” he said.
“This gets us to a place where we don’t need surplus to balance the budget, so it is great news to be at a place where we are self-sustainable.”