The enrollment numbers for schools in Houston are out and except a drastic upward number for the Distributed Learning Program, most numbers are on par with the schools’ projections.
Due to Covid, several parents were reluctant to send their kids back to school and what the numbers for school enrollment would look like this year was a big question hovering in the background. The numbers however, are almost on par with the projections according to School District 54 (SD54) Superintendent Mike McDiarmid.
According to McDiarmid, Houston Secondary School’s on projection with about 183 students this year. Twain Sullivan is up a couple of students, slated to be at about 174, which is slightly up from their original projection. However, Silverthorne is actually down a little bit by about 15 students with a total enrollment of 155 students.
“In total, the numbers are mostly on par with the projections and I know in Silverthorne’s case, they had some families move out of town, and some moved to Twain Sullivan so that’s a fairly small number. So there is a little bit of student movement there,” said McDiarmid.
While the enrollment numbers haven’t changed much for these schools, SD54’s Distributed Learning Program with the Bulkley Valley Education Connection (BVEC), which is counted separately and considered as a school in itself, has gone up dramatically.
“BVEC’s enrollment has gone up this year. It is quite a small program but they are about 40 students more than they had last year. That’s secondary and elementary students. They were projecting about 60 and they now have about a 100,” said McDiarmid adding that while this is a big number, it also includes students from Smithers.
“I think our distributed learning program has grown a little bit in size as some families are making that choice because of Covid so that would explain the enrollment,” said McDiarmid.
The distributed learning program with BVEC, is broken into different categories. They have an option for complete homeschooling for elementary students and they also have several complete home learning options for high school students. High Schoolers can also take a block out of their schedule in distributed learning.
With a change in enrollment numbers, it is possible that the schools could see some change to their budgets as the provincial funding that the schools receive for each student enrollment would change based on this year’s number. However, according to McDiarmid, there won’t be any drastic changes in schools’ budgets.
“It is not an unexpected movement, it is just a natural fluctuation. Most numbers are fairly similar to what they were last year. Right now in Houston in particular, the numbers seem balanced so the budget shouldn’t be impacted by this,” said McDiarmid.
SD54 had a board meeting on Sept. 29, during which the school admins discussed the budget, saw changes being made to the calendar with the instructional day moved to January, but the biggest decision the board made during the meeting was to release their Draft Strategic plan for feedback.
“That’s really a four year plan for the entire school district. We are quite pleased for it to be ready to go in draft form. We will send it out for consultation for about a month before it is formally adopted,” said McDiarmid.
One of the big changes that the draft plan includes is to change the school district logo which will feature some Wetsuwet’en artwork as a part of the logo.
“In the strategic plan, there are some goals there — a goal for more knowledge about the Wetsuwet’en culture in our school and language and a real focus on increasing graduation rates for Indigenous students, so as a part of those discussions, the board thought that we have a feather in the logo, could we have more of a Wetsuwet’en flavor to it,” explained McDiarmid.
The strategic plan, that will include the revitalized logo, is expected to be out this week.
The meeting also had the board discussing how the back to school was going.
“We feel that it is going about as well as it could. In the beginning, people were a little anxious and nervous but now that we have been into this for a few weeks, people have kind of settled into the routine of all the health and safety guidelines, people are relaxed and I think the students are very happy to be back in school,” said McDiarmid.