This year has turned out to be something that wasn’t expected by Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS).
In his report to the board of trustees at their meeting Oct. 6, superintendent Jayson Lovell explained that the division’s official student registration numbers are down from what was projected, by 92 students. WCPS had projected its numbers be closer to 7,600, but 7,487 students showed up this fall.
“Needless to say, we were a bit surprised by the movement of students in some places,” Lovell said.
“There were some schools that saw increases, but the largest decrease was in Blackfalds, where after some investigation we found most of them didn’t leave the school division, but left the area entirely.”
The biggest category where student numbers dropped was from Grades 1 to 9, where a total of 99 students left, while the number of federally funded students — most of those come from First Nations areas — fell by 45.
In the Ponoka area, student enrolment overall was up from the projected numbers. Ponoka Elementary School increased by 17, to 483 students, while Ponoka Secondary Campus went up 8, to 576, Ponoka Outreach School rose by 13 students to 194 and Mecca Glen School remaining unchanged at 130. Crestomere did fall, but only by one student to stand at 141.
That said, WCPS must now deal with a per student funding shortfall of around $470,000, as Alberta Education bases its funding for schools on the number of students registered as of Sept. 30.
However, according to WCPS secretary-treasurer Joe Henderson, the division can likely absorb that amount through its operational reserve fund that realized an increase in unanticipated savings from last school year of $1.5 million.
Trustees last month approved spending around $1.15 million of those savings to enhance classroom supports through increased educational assistants and other services for students.
Henderson said that leaves about $350,000 left along with the $2.1 million that was set aside in the 2016-17 budget, so he suggested trustees wait until the division receives their official audited financial statements for 2015-16 before seeing if there is a need to spend that money to cover a potential deficit.
On the Bright side
Lovell also informed trustees about some good news regarding the enrolment in the Bright Futures Play Academy, the division’s revamped pre-school program. He stated the program continues to see strong numbers, sitting at 375, with WCPS working in some additional teaching supports and adding other items to meet the needs of the young children and teachers.
He was also pleased about the recent provincial training event the division hosted on the early years evaluation assessment process that examines development of pre-kindergarten children to help teachers with informative instruction and growth monitoring.