B.C. schools lose 72,000 students, ministry baffled 0
Tens of thousands of students have left from B.C. schools in the past 13 years and education officials can only speculate where they went. (FOTOLIA)
B.C.’s population keeps rising yet officials can only speculate as to where 72,000 students have disappeared to in the past 13 years.
Dropping enrolment means schools receive less funding, and are forced to either close or let classrooms sit empty while administrations continue to pay the same overhead costs.
This coming school year is projected to have 5,824 fewer students than the last.
“I can’t tell you where they’ve gone,” Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Wednesday.
“It’s not a simplistic answer … but what I can say is we’re working very hard to make sure that we do the best we can with B.C. staff’s information, immigration figures, to predict where the growth is going to be and how we respond to it.”
Some school districts, such as Vancouver, have measured and found the dwindling numbers are not due to private schools sucking up students.
According to ministry figures, only 14,267 students of the missing group are recorded as taking independent schooling. That leaves 57,733 still unaccounted for — about 11% of this year’s total enrolment of more than 525,000 pupils.
Two schools in Delta, the Delta Manor and Boundary Beach annexes, were already closed in recent years due to a large enrolment drop.
Delta school board chairwoman Laura Dixon suspects a “demographic shift” is occurring, as the offspring of baby boomers graduate and fewer children head to class.
“Some of the homes that used to house school children are (now) empty-nester homes,” she said, adding the district had lost more than 4,000 students from its peak of 19,000. “Maybe it’ll never be as high as the original numbers … we do expect, somewhere in five to 10 years’ time, we might start seeing numbers climb again.”
Vancouver school board chairwoman Patti Bacchus said some eastside schools sit between 30 to 50% empty.
The district is also seismically upgrading a gamut of schools, which means some older heritage buildings will now sit empty until they’re upgraded — or leased off.
For example, Bacchus said, the district plans to seek proponents to lease and possibly upgrade heritage buildings at Sexsmith Elementary to accept retail spaces, office space or residential units.