Enrolment across Central Alberta a hodgepodge of increases, decreases

Enrolment for the new school year in Central Alberta was a mixed bag with increases and decreases.

Enrolment for the new school year in Central Alberta was a mixed bag with increases and decreases.

Red Deer Public Schools had 10,699 students, an increase of 101 students or about one per cent, as of the end of September.

Bruce Buruma, director of communications, said with job losses in Alberta’s oil and gas industry — and the mobility of families that can result — the district was unsure about the impact to enrolment.

“Most of our schools are coming in at the same levels. A few areas have had some growth, but it’s been pretty consistent when you spread that over 22 schools,” Buruma said.

He said the district typically sees annual growth of about two and four per cent so there was a decline this year.

But enrolment is still on the way up and the district is building a new elementary school in Inglewood to accommodate future growth. Alberta has a young population and that means long-term growth for the district, Buruma said.

Enrolment at Central Alberta’s francophone school Ecole La Prairie saw a decline in enrolment. The Red Deer school, built for students up to Grade 12, shrunk to a kindergarten to Grade 8 school with 131 students because older students choose to attend other schools. Last year the kindergarten to Grade 9 school had 140 students.

Chinook’s Edge School Division had 10,988 students, or 72 more students which is less than a one per cent increase.

The large rural division operates in communities in Red Deer County and includes Sylvan Lake, Penhold, Olds, Delburne, Innisfail, Crossfield, Cremona, Carstairs, Elnora, Bowden, Didsbury, Benalto, Spruce View and Sundre.

“Having a gradual growth, where it’s close to a per cent a year, it’s healthy and makes it easy to respond to student needs. It helps with planning and supporting programs,” Chinook superintendent Kurt Sacher said.

Wild Rose School Division, which serves Rocky Mountain House, Caroline, Leslieville, Drayton Valley, Breton, and Condor, ended September with fewer students. Enrolment stood at 4,824 due to 98 fewer students, or a two per cent drop.

Superintendent Brad Volkman said the economy did force some families to move to find work.