Classes will be a little emptier in the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District.
With a new year beginning Tuesday, enrolment for 2012/13 is expected to be about 6,600 students in kindergarten to Grade 12. That is down 250 from last year.
A low birth rate is the major influence on enrolment, but there are also other factors.
“When a family leaves the region, they are off to Alberta to find work,” said superintendent Dave Witt, adding that local economic conditions have created significant challenges for some local families.
The largest decrease in students is anticipated in the secondary schools.
A better understanding of enrolment will develop over the next few weeks and the number of students directly impacts the district’s funding from the provincial government.
While students were off enjoying their holidays, schools remained busy during the summer.
“There have been several HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) upgrades and grounds improvements at several schools,” said Witt.
“Staff have also been doing the finishing touches at the new M.V. Beattie Elementary.”
Some repairs were needed at Pleasant Valley Secondary School after some leaks surfaced during a storm.
Planning has also been underway to ensure M.V. Beattie is ready for students coming from Ashton Creek Elementary, which closed in June.
“Staff, administration and parent groups have worked together to bring the students together,” said Witt of creating a welcoming atmosphere for all children.
A shadow was cast over the last school year because of a labour dispute between teachers and the provincial government.
“I hope that with a collective agreement now signed, it will bring some labour peace and there will be some dialogue with the entire education community,” said Witt, who admits there are still some issues of concern for teachers.
One outstanding question, though, is whether teachers will begin volunteering for extra-curricular activities like sports teams and clubs. Those kinds of roles came to an end during the contract dispute.
“The B.C. Teachers Federation has said it’s up to teachers,” said Witt.
“We’ve heard from some coaches that are anxious to resume those duties.”