School enrolments are up significantly across the Cariboo-Chilcotin, as more people move to the region and others return to class after a year of home-schooling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Williams Lake’s Mountview and Chilcotin Road elementary schools have both seen an increase in students. Horse Lake and Forest Grove elementary schools have also welcomed more students this year, according to School District 27 Supt. Chris van der Mark.
“We are seeing a significant bump in our projected numbers – we’ve had a lot more kids show up than we were expecting,” van der Mark said. “Clearly, there’s been some people relocating to the area and we have a lot of new families coming into the community.”
van der Mark said it’s early for final enrolment numbers but estimates the school district has welcomed 4,600 students this fall, up 250 from last year. Besides new arrivals to town, he said the increase is also likely because more students who switched to home school last year during the pandemic are now returning to the classroom.
Lake City Secondary School principal Craig Munroe said there are about 120 new students across both the Columneetza and Williams Lake campuses.
Approximately 15 of those new students have arrived because Maranatha Christian School is no longer offering grade eight through 12, he said.
“We’ve also received some new students from out of the province including about 10 from Alberta, two from Saskatchewan and two from Manitoba,” Munroe said.
Additionally, there are new students from Chilliwack, Langley, Port Coquitlam, Kamloops, Prince George and Quesnel.
Presently there are 1,480 students across the two campuses, Munroe said, noting the school has yet to hear from about 20 no-shows.
Chilcotin Road Elementary School principal Gregg Gaylord said enrollment is up by 11 students.
“Our site is quite full and we have just navigated for another division and have advertised for a kindergarten teacher for the school,” he said Wednesday.
Gaylord said there is a lot of communication going back and forth with the district and other schools to accommodate his school’s wait list.
“New people have moved into our catchment area,” he added.
At Forest Grove, principal Mark Doolan said he has only one spot left in his school. Some 93 students are registered there, compared with 68 last year.
“Our school is thriving,” Doolan said. “We’re really excited about the fact the school is growing and is a reflection of the community that has been growing.”
The new students come from all over, including Squamish, Chilliwack, Alberta and even as far away as Toronto, Doolan said. The new families, for the most part, are coming to the Forest Grove area for more space, affordable housing and to escape from the “rat race,” he added.
To support the increasing numbers, Doolan has worked closely with the school’s Parental Advisory Council, which has purchased 5o tablets and 30 laptops and new swing sets for the students. He said these purchases, combined with the new outdoor learning area, makes him excited for the coming year.
van der Mark said it’s always good for SD27 to have more students. Many parts of rural B.C., including the Cariboo-Chilcotin, have seen declining enrolment numbers over the last few years so it’s nice to see the numbers trend the other way.
“In some situations, we’ll probably have to look for and find staffing if the increase doesn’t shake out in ways that can be absorbed by the existing staffing structures,” van der Mark said.
van der Mark thanked parents and students for being so accommodating over the past year and reminded the general public to watch their speed around school zones and school buses.