Red Deer Public School officials are cautiously optimistic that student enrolment will rise slightly this fall.
But initial projections of a 200-student gain when classes start on Thursday, Sept. 1, were downgraded to 100 students because “we want to be safe,” said the district’s community relations director Bruce Buruma.
Considering the city’s overall population has fallen by about 1,000 people in this difficult economy, Buruma said the district opted to only budget for 100 new students.
“The entire community is recognizing what (the economy) is like… Hopefully, (the downturn ) will just be a short-term thing,” he added.
Some 10,500 pupils were registered in the public district last June. Buruma said a one per cent growth rate is projected for September, based on Alberta Education spread sheets and local demographics. Since Red Deer has a younger population, he expects most gains will be in pre-school and elementary grades.
Some student shuffling will be happening over the next few years as two new schools come on stream. Construction on the Don Campbell K-5 school in Inglewood is ahead of schedule, said Buruma, with an expected September 2017 opening.
West Park Middle School is also being rebuilt on a different location on school property. It’s expected to be ready in the fall of 2019.
Meanwhile, the public district is planning to repurpose Grandview school for K-8 Spanish Immersion students, and is closing Pines School — at least until more people move Red Deer’s northeast. Buruma said in order to reopen, Pines School would need 1,000 additional students in the area.
The Red Deer Catholic School District is also projecting a one per cent enrolment increase, amounting to about 90 students. This is a modest expectation for the 9,000-student district, which has had previous annual increases of three per cent or higher. But projections were lowered because of the tighter economy, said Ken Jaeger, superintendent of support services.
Returning Catholic students will find more classroom space in Father Henri Voisin School in Clearview Ridge and St. Francis of Assisi School in Lancaster. Both gained modular classrooms. However, the installation of St. Elizabeth Seaton’s additional classrooms is delayed until the end of September, so Jaeger expects some classes will continue in the school library until then.
However, construction is ahead of schedule on St. Joseph’s High School in Timberlands, which is expected to open by the fall of 2017. The same opening date is set for the new St. Gregory the Great School in Blackfalds.
And in Innisfail, Jaeger said St. Marguerite Bourgeoys School has gained two new wings.
School preparations in the Chinook’s Edge division mean that 30 new teachers are taking part in a four-day orientation. This includes a mentoring program in which incoming teachers are paired with educational veterans, who help them with professional development and offer support and encouragement.
Emma Turville, a new Grade 8 teacher at Bowden’s Grandview School, praised the approach, saying “There is 100 per cent support and good will… everyone wants us to do well.”