By Jeremy Appel on October 11, 2018.
Prairie Rose School District’s enrolment decreased this year, but the numbers were greater than anticipated.
“It’s the curse of rural education,” superintendent Roger Clarke said Wednesday at the board’s meeting.
“All over rural Alberta we see declining enrolment — more kids graduating, less kids coming into the system.”
Many students’ parents move to cities in search of work, Clarke added.
PRSD had initially projected a decrease of 65 students, but it ended up being 21-and-a-half.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a half-student.
The board counts students in terms of base funding, so each student is represented in the figures by a half-student.
Each student earns about $9,600 in funding, explained secretary treasurer Ryan Boser.
Burdett School was projected to lose the most student funding at 15.5, but Ralston ended up decreasing the most, with 16.5 fewer, according figures presented to the board.
“We have a plan to mitigate this,” Boser said, adding the board heard earlier that its financial position was better than anticipated.
Clarke said the district’s unique programming, such as sports academies and its in-development entrepreneurship program, will hopefully attract new students.
“That will be compelling for our parents and students to make decisions to stay in Prairie Rose schools,” Clarke said. “When they make that decision to stay … they benefit every kid at that school and the system at large as well, because we have additional resources we can use.”
Trustee Kathy Hogg tied the declining enrolment to a broader downturn in rural Alberta.
“The decline of rural Alberta is something that should concern everybody, not just people in rural Alberta,” she said. “That’s where the money is made in this province … whether it’s the gas and oil industry or forestry or agriculture.”
Due to declining enrolment, PRSD cancelled six bus routes for the 2018-19 school year.
“We have a vast, vast division,” said director of transportation Derek Beck.
In 2017-18, the district had 1,935 students on 92 routes, which traveled 18,974 kilometres each day to 18 schools, whereas this year there will be 1,928 students on 86 routes, travelling 17,261 km per day.
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