By Justin Seward
Another school year has begun and Prairie Rose School Division (PRSD) has seen another enrollment decrease, however, the numbers are not as bad as they may seem.
“I’m here today with much positive news in comparison to where we were at the beginning of the month,” said PRSD’s secretary treasurer Ryan Boser to the board of trustees at their Oct. 10 meeting.
The school division had projected a decrease of 65 students this year, but came in at 21-and-a-half greater than the prediction.
You may never have heard of a board counting a half student.
But PRSD counts students for base funding, where each student is represented in figures by a half-student.
Boser said financially, each student earns $9,600 in instructional funding for the whole division.
“We have a plan to mitigate this to ensure that when we bring you the budget come the fall, we may ask you to go deeper into deficit ,” he said.
“We did allocate some staffing over the system with our academies. But that being said, we had a strong financial report showing that we were going to be under our projected deficit. There’s certainly going to be more resources in the system that we can access when we bring back the revisements in the fall.”
PRSD superintendent Roger Clarke added the 86-and-a-half FTE (Full Time Equivalent) student decrease is the difference between last year’s Sept. 30 enrollment and this year’s enrollment.
“It’s the curse of rural education,” said Clarke.
“All over rural Alberta, we see declining enrollment. Rural kids graduating, less kids coming in the system. We aren’t losing students in droves to other school districts. We are losing them because of drawing out or they are moving because of the economy.”
“But it doesn’t stop the fact that we’re still declining in enrollment, which means we lose resources for all of our kids.”
Programs such as the sports academies, or dance academy have to continue developing order to compel students and parents to stay in PRSD schools, Clarke added.
Trustee Kathy Hogg made the connection between a decline in enrollment to the general downturn of rural Alberta.
“The decline of rural Alberta should concern everybody, not just people in rural Alberta,” said Hogg.
“That’s where the money is made in this province … whether it’s in the gas and oil industry, forestry or agriculture.”
With the lower enrollment, PRSD director of transportation Derek Beck said PRSD has canceled six routes, leaving the school district with 86 routes and buses traveling 17, 261 km per day this school year with 1,928 students.
There were 1,935 students that rode 92 routes travelling over 18, 974 kilometres each day to 18 schools last year.