School enrolments are up significantly across the South Cariboo, as more people move to the region and others return to class after a year of home-schooling.
Horse Lake and Forest Grove elementary schools have both welcomed more students this year, according to School District 27 Supt. Chris van der Mark. There has also been an increase in students at Williams Lake’s Mountview and Chilcotin Road elementary schools.
“We are seeing a significant bump in our projected numbers – we’ve had a lot more kids show up than we were expecting,” van der Mark said. “Clearly, there’s been some people relocating to the area and we have a lot of new families coming into the community.”
van der Mark said it’s early for final enrolment numbers but estimates the school district has welcomed 4,600 students this fall, up 250 from last year. Besides new arrivals to town, he said the increase is also likely because more students who switched to home school last year during the pandemic are now returning to the classroom.
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At Forest Grove, principal Mark Doolan said he has only one spot left in his school. Some 93 students are registered there, compared with 68 last year.
“Our school is thriving,” Doolan said. “We’re really excited about the fact the school is growing and is a reflection of the community that has been growing.”
The new students come from all over, including Squamish, Chilliwack, Alberta and even as far away as Toronto, Doolan said. The new families, for the most part, are coming to the Forest Grove area for more space, affordable housing and to escape from the “rat race,” he added.
To support the increasing numbers, Doolan has worked closely with the school’s Parental Advisory Council, which has purchased 50 tablets and 30 laptops and new swingsets for the students. He said these purchases, combined with the new outdoor learning area, make him excited for the coming year.
van der Mark said it’s always good for SD27 to have more students. Many parts of rural B.C., including the Cariboo-Chilcotin, have seen declining enrolment numbers over the last few years so it’s nice to see the numbers trend the other way.
“In some situations, we’ll probably have to look for and find staffing if the increase doesn’t shake out in ways that can be absorbed by the existing staffing structures,” van der Mark said.
Mile 108 Elementary still has room for students, said new principal Elaine Colgate. The school had projected 160 students and its enrolment numbers are almost “bang on” with 157.
“The first day of school went great. We had almost all of our kiddos show up,” Colgate said. “We have a few new students, a few have moved out, but it’s basically an even wash. We’re happy to be stable.”
van der Mark thanks parents and students for being so accommodating over the past year and reminds the general public to watch their speed around school zones and school buses.