Enrollment increasing in local elementary schools


By Barb McKay


Full-day kindergarten is boosting enrollment numbers at Kincardine and Ripley elementary schools.


Ecole Elgin Market Public School has welcomed 60 full-day kindergarten students this week and has added a Grade 7 class. The school is now fully French Immersion.


“We’re keeping steady,” said principal Marga Wilson. “We have about 30 new students every year.”


Enrollment at the school has reached 205 students.


Improvements are being made to the Ecole Elgin Market playground. A fundraising dance last year made it possible to add 10 new benches to the outdoor play area and the school is considering starting a peace garden in the spring.


“Our home and school association is busy fundraising for the playground,” Wilson said. “It’s coming together.”


Ripley-Huron Community School has welcomed approximately 50 full-day junior kindergarteners for the first time. Enrollment at the school is more than 260 now.


“That’s up quite a bit from last year,” said principal Graham Martin. “Kindergarten is part of that.”


As a result of adding full-day kindergarten classes Ripley-Huron has hired two new early childhood educators, Michelle Elliott and Gail Colling.


The school is also added new technology, Martin said. Every classroom is now equipped with smart boards and iPads.


Martin said the school will continue to build on its theme, “With my own two hands,” and find ways for the students and the school to get involved with initiatives that benefit others. Staff has been nominated for the ALS ice bucket challenge.


“I’m sure we’ll rise to the challenge,” Martin said.


Huron Heights Public School has also seen an increase in enrollment this year. Eighteen new students will attend the senior elementary school this year. Carolyn Harris, who previously taught at Elgin Market before being transferred to Port Elgin, has come on board as vice-principal and will also teach Grade 8. The last Grade 1 class she taught at Elgin Market is starting Grade 4 at Huron Heights this week.


“It’s nice to be back in Kincardine with my family of students,” she said. “It’s been very welcoming and I’m thrilled to work with the staff and administrative team. It’s an exciting school.”


Former Kincardine students Julie Courtney and Miranda Lytle have joined the teaching staff, as has Jonathon Farrell, who will teach intermediate French.


Kincardine and District Secondary School continues to face declining enrollment. Principal Randall DeKraker said the high school has roughly 25 fewer students than last year and the school board has closed some classrooms to reduce energy costs in the building.


“We have more space than we need,” he said.


As enrollment increases in the elementary schools, there will be a turnaround eventually.


“We will bottom out in 2016/2017 and then we’ll start to rise slowly,” he said. “It’s always a guessing game. We could have families move into the area.”


In the interim, he said, KDSS will do its best to keep programming going. Yesterday, the Link Crew, made up of senior students, was in the school helping to orientate new Grade 9 students, as well as 15 students visiting from Brazil. DeKraker said the Link Crew program goes a long way to helping the new students become comfortable in their new surroundings.


“Starting Grade 9 is a pretty big event and it can be frightening, so it’s great for them to be able to come in here when the halls aren’t full. Gaining that familiarity and comfort level is important.”


Calls to Kincardine Township Tiverton Public School and St. Anthony’s School were not returned by press time.