In another effort to combat rural school divisions’ ongoing struggle with student population numbers and funding, Wolf Creek Public Schools (WSPS) is in the beginning stages of pondering a “ghost student” strategy.
“If you’re looking to support schools, you can do a number of things,” said WCPS superintendent Larry Jacobs.
In the division, smaller high schools are typically allowed to run at a deficit but with ghost students, schools would be able to operate on a flat rate given by the division. With the idea of ghost students, numbers are incorporated into the flat rate, but are not actually presented at the school.
With smaller rural schools, as family farms become less and less popular, the student body shrinks, says Jacobs. Since funding is based on a per capita system, the money the students bring to the school leaves with them, affecting programming at the small schools, such as options and career and technology courses (CTS).
With sparse programming, more students leave for bigger schools and better opportunities, leaving the rural schools at the mercy of a vicious cycle.
There are three or four schools in the division in need; ghost students would guarantee money for proper staffing or programming.
“My large schools have efficiency built in,” said Jacobs.
Not just an issue in WCPS previously, small high schools across the province have faced mounting funding challenges over the last decade. “It’s because the demographics are changing,” said Jacobs.
He is in preliminary discussions with smaller schools to grant a flat rate in funding once the populations hit a concerning low.
“Without that, these schools are really at the mercy of the demographics,” said Jacobs.
The decision will come from the WCPS board of trustees and a large deciding factor will be the provincial funding for the division, which will be announced at the end of February or early March, says Jacobs.