School District 8 says enrolment has mostly been unaffected by the pandemic. Photo: Bruce Fuhr

School District 8 says enrolment has mostly been unaffected by the pandemic. Photo: Bruce Fuhr

Only small enrolment drop across School District 8

The pandemic has not caused students to be pulled from schools

by Timothy Schafer

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily

The mass exodus out of Nelson’s schools during the pandemic has not happened.

Enrolment in schools has not fluctuated greatly despite no easing of COVID-19 protocols and restrictions, the introduction of masks during class time for all students, and low vaccination rates.

As the pandemic and its various variants wend their way through society and School District 8, the amount of students stepping across the threshold to public school has only dipped slightly in 2021.

The overall fall in SD8 from September 2020 to September 2021 was 60 students, from 4,978 to 4,918. The decrease came mainly from the secondary school grades — down by 65 students — with primary grades (Grade 1 to 7) also dropping by 29 students.

The loss was only partially made up for by an increase of 34 Kindergarten students — from 288 to 322.

A decrease of 60 students out of 4,978 is not alarming, noted SD8 superintendent Trish Smillie, and appears to only be a “normal fluctuation of students year over year, likely due to birth rates.”

In fact, in digging deeper the figures show no real loss of students. She pointed to the enrolment for Elev8 – DESK, and Elev8 – Homelinks, which represents 307.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) students within the total enrolment numbers, that had a decrease of 51.75 FTE students from 2020.

However, considering the enrolment for the 2021-2022 school year, 92 FTE learners are currently attending homeschool and are not included within the Sept. 30, 2021 enrolment totals, Smillie added.

Last year there were 94 FTE registered homeschool students within the school district’s catchment.

“This shows students have not left to attend other educational options,” Smillie said.

The enrolment numbers for DESK and Homelinks were anticipated to have been higher this year and instead dropped. But there wasn’t much to be read into the decrease of 51.75 FTE students, said Smillie.

“We are pleased to see that our students have returned to face-to-face instruction and know that this is the best place for students to build positive social connections and learn,” she said.

L.V. Rogers Secondary saw a dip of 65 students.

“I believe this is from the number of graduates compared to the number of students entering Grade 8, as well as students leaving the area,” Smillie said.

Heading towards the middle, Trafalgar Middle School welcomed Grade 9 students for the first time (Grade 6 to Grade 9), making it the biggest enrolment school in the district at 582 FTE students.