Lindsay Thurber High School students file out of the school Friday afternoon. Student enrolment numbers in the Red Deer Public Schools has held steady while Red Deer Catholic Schools have seen a jump in enrolment. Jeff Stokoe/Advocate photo

Lindsay Thurber High School students file out of the school Friday afternoon. Student enrolment numbers in the Red Deer Public Schools has held steady while Red Deer Catholic Schools have seen a jump in enrolment. Jeff Stokoe/Advocate photo

Enrolment staying the course in Red Deer schools

Difficult economic conditions combined with a decline in the city’s population did not affect school numbers

Student enrolment numbers in Red Deer schools held steady in the public system while the separate Catholic system saw a healthy bounce.

More than 20,000 students are enrolled in Grades K to 12 in the two school districts. The Sept. 30 count showed Red Deer Public School District with 10,700 students and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools with 9,552 students.

Stu Henry, Red Deer Public School District superintendent, said Friday difficult economic conditions combined with a decline in the city’s population of about 1,000 had them worried about what the enrolment numbers would show.

As it turned out, the district saw an increase of 100 students and a decrease in its Alternative School Programs, holding enrolment at 10,700 students, the same as last year.

Schools receive about $7,000 per student in provincial grants based on enrolment numbers as of Sept. 30. If the numbers change, school districts need to adjust their budgets accordingly.

Henry said that the alternative school numbers may be down in part because the district is no longer offering evening community classes as of this school year.

These type of alternative classes are being offered by the City of Red Deer and Red Deer College and so the district decided not to offer them anymore.

“If you take that out of the mix, we’re up about 100 students,” although it’s not like the growth of one and two per cent they have been seeing, Henry said.

RDPSD has hired an additional 1.8 FTE teachers since the start of the new school year.

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools saw an increase of about 400 more students from last year’s enrolment.

Board vice-chairperson Anne Marie Watson said the amount of increase was unexpected good news and that the district’s two schools in Sylvan Lake account for about 130 of the new students.

There are probably a variety of reasons for the increase in numbers, she said.

Some schools will be utilizing all their spaces, including libraries and portables, to squeeze in all the students. This year will be very challenging but when two new schools open up next year in the district, they will have more “wiggle room,” Watson said.

The new K to 9 school in Blackfalds will help a lot, as will the new Catholic high school in Red Deer.

The school district is hiring additional teachers to handle the higher enrolment, she said.

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