(File photo)

(File photo)

Wolf Creek Public Schools: pandemic caused lower class sizes, deficits

Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) trustees discussed a number of items at their Dec. 17 meeting, including how decreased enrolment due to COVID-19 concerns has affected class sizes and the budget this year.

“Wolf Creek’s actual enrolment is down 500 students from what was projected in last spring’s budget submission to Alberta Education,” said WCPS superintendent Jayson Lovell in an email.

For example, WCPS is down 204 kindergarten students from projected and close to 300 students in Grades 1 to 12.

“This is directly related to the pandemic and parents making different educational choices for their student,” said Lovell.

This change represents a 5.8 per cent drop in enrolment from the division’s spring projection.

The drop will potentially have “far-reaching impact on our budget as our budget is based on a three-year Weighted Moving Average (WMA),” said Lovell.

The current calculation for this drop in enrolment creates an unanticipated $1.3 million deficit which will need to be addressed in the upcoming spring, 2021 budget.

He adds this challenge is not exclusive to Wolf Creek as many school districts have seen major changes in their enrolment due to the pandemic.

The average class sizes for core classes by division across the district, as of December, 2020 are:

  • Division 1 (Grades 1 to 3): 17.1 average (20.6 in 2018/2019)
  • Division 2 (Grades 4 to 6): 20.1 average (22.0 in 2018/2019)
  • Division 3 (Grades 7 to 9): 19.3 average (22.3 in 2018/2019)
  • Division 4 (Grades 10 to 12): 20.2 average (19.6 in 2018/2019)

The averages had been fairly similar for the past three years prior to the pandemic.

The board moved to receive an annual class size report each December.

Enrolment is also down in the Bright Futures Play Academy (BFPA), amounting to an operating deficit of $531,333 for the 2020-21 school year.

“Two factors have significantly impacted the operational budget for BFPA this year: the pandemic and parents choosing to keep their student at home and changes to the funding model from Alberta Education,” said Lovell.

“Much like our overall Wolf Creek enrollment projections made in last spring’s budget, many parents have chosen not to place their student in BFPA this year due to concerns with the pandemic.”

Last year BFPA had 338 students, and this year there is just 179 — a drop of 159 students or a 47 per cent decline.

“We submitted a projected budget in spring, 2020 anticipating a slight decrease but the actual decrease was much greater,” he said.

“This has resulted in a significant drop in revenue as fewer students mean fewer fees which partially covers operational costs.

“It was extremely challenging to predict the full impact of the pandemic last spring when we built our budget, staffed the program, and unfortunately, have experienced ongoing uncertainty and disruption to this program.”

The other drop in revenue was a result of a new funding framework brought in from Alberta Education in the spring, 2020 budget in the area of Program Unit Funding (PUF).

In 2019/2020, Wolf Creek identified and supported 128 PUF students. In this 2020-2021 school year, that number is down to 25 students receiving PUF support.

The $350,000 grant that previously supported Family Oriented Programming (FOP) was also eliminated.

FOP provided a variety of services and supports for BFPA families with children needing intervention and additional assistance.

The board voted to continue supporting BFPA with the operating deficit.

Ward boundary configuration

The board approved third and final reading to a bylaw to adjust the electoral boundaries for equitable representation across the division.

– With a file from Wolf Creek Public Schools

Wolf Creek Public Schools