Small rural schools in Central Alberta are hanging on to students despite Alberta’s ongoing economic struggles.
Superintendent Kurt Sacher said enrolment at Chinook’s Edge School Division climbed by about 100 students to reach 11,118 in September at its 43 schools.
“Our overall jurisdiction forecast about five years ago was for continued decline annually because it’s a rural area, spread out, and the general trend of people moving into the urban areas. But we haven’t seen that. We’ve seen the reverse actually of just slight growth over the years,” Sacher said.
“We continue to see fairly steady growth in three communities in particular — Carstairs, Penhold, and Sylvan Lake.”
He said schools like Poplar Ridge School, located eight km west of Red Deer, has about 200 students, up from 185 last September. Enrolment at Elnora School remained steady and Reed Ranch in Olds saw a slight increase.
Olds Koinonia Christian School has 342 students, about 40 more than expected, which is likely because of changes to home schooling regulations in Alberta, Sacher said.
Superintendent Jayson Lovell at Wolf Creek Public Schools said enrolment dropped to 7,313 from 7,483. Enrolment was projected to reach 7,490 so there were some surprises.
“The trend seems to be in our two largest urban centres, Blackfalds and Lacombe, a little bit of a drop, and pretty stable enrolment in our other communities,” Lovell said.
He said Wolf Creek has seen a 25 per cent jump in special needs students, and stable enrolments at small rural schools, like Mecca Glen near Ponoka and schools in Eckville. Enrolment at Rimbey Elementary School went up by 15 students to 422.
“Over time they’ve had really nice growth (in Rimbey). Economically there’s lots of oil and gas in that particular part of Central Alberta.”
He said families moving due to job loss continues for some in Wolf Creek.
“The other trend we’re seeing is a fair bit of movement throughout the year. Most families likely do move in the summer if they’re making a pretty big move. But we also recognize if a father loses a job in February they’re probably looking for work right away and if they find something they’re moving.”