St. Paul Education Superintendent Glen Brodziak said the enrolment numbers as of Sept. 30 are pretty much bang on with what was projected by division schools last spring.
According to the report presented to the board on Wednesday, SPERD had 3,773 full-time students on Sept. 30, 2019 and 3,757 full-time students on Sept. 30, 2020 – a decrease of just 16 full-time students.
“Principals did a wonderful job. They were only three down from our projections. What that means basically as far as building our budget, our budget was built on a break-even basis. Even though we are 16 students down, the budget was based on where we are,” said Brodziak.
Full-time enrolment numbers do not include students enrolled in the division’s outreach schools in St. Paul, Elk Point, and Myrnam, said Brodziak, as the division uses two types of data.
“In one chart we take out our students at our outreach centres because they are funded at a different rate. They could be on a per course, they could be at home where the parents provide much of the learning, they could be in a blended program where it’s about half the rate of a regular full-time student.”
The St. Paul Alternate Education Centre lost three students, dropping from 73 in 2019 to 70 in 2020. Elk Point Outreach saw no change, continuing to serve 12 students.
“But the Myrnam Outreach and Homeschool projected 26 students, and our Sept. 30 count was actually 62 students,” said Brodziak.
In an interview after the meeting, Brodziak said the difference between projected and actual numbers in Myrnam was the result of a few factors including work the school is doing to promote their homeschool program.
“Word of mouth has spread about the quality of the program and it speaks to what staff are doing and what they’re trying to accomplish. During the pandemic there’s been more families looking at alternate forms and alternate modes of education. Some students are local, but some are enrolled from across the province,” said Brodziak.
He said approximately 35 of the students enrolled in the Myrnam Outreach and Homeschool reside outside the division boundaries.
“But what we’ve tried to do is meet every parent where they are at and provide what they want for their child. We want to make that program flexible and cater to what they would like for their child,” said Brodziak.
He said when you combine the regular students and the outreach students, the division is actually up 17 students from 2019.
According to Brodziak, SPERD has 611 at-home learners as of Sept. 30, roughly 16 per cent of their full-time students.
“Of note is that due to local outbreaks, both Saddle Lake and Goodfish Lake only started running their buses on Oct. 5. So they’ve only been really one week of school. Most of those students were being served their learning in the at-home model and have not come back yet. So when you look at that, the rest of the division is at about a 10 per cent at home learning rate,” said Brodziak.
Board Chair Heather Starosielski praised SPERD administration for their projections last spring considering the challenge of the pandemic.
She said other school divisions across the province are concerned about enrollment numbers.
“They’ve seen some progression of students that have gone to other alternative forms of education, more of the homeschooling models that aren’t being directed necessarily from one division. There has been growth in those areas we are aware,” said Starosielski, noting there could be budgetary impacts for some divisions.
“Normally every student up or down would have an impact on our funding for the year. Now that we’re looking at a weighted moving average for students it really affects us only 30 per cent to the extent it would have in previous years,” said Secretary-Treasurer Jean Champagne.
He said the weighted moving average is based 20 per cent on the previous year’s enrolment, 30 per cent on the current year, and 50 per cent on projected enrolment for the next year.
“Across the province, it looks like there was a number of boards that are looking at a significant decrease and ours really pretty much met our projections,” said Champagne.