BWDSB student enrolment surpasses projections


By Barb McKay

For the first time in years, student enrolment within the Bluewater District School Board (BWDSB) is up.

Cynthia Lemon, Executive Human Resources Services for the BWDSB, made the unexpected announcement during the BWDSB meeting last Tuesday.

“I do not recall that in recent history we have brought this kind of report to the board of trustees,” she said. “It’s a very happy story to have.”

According to BWDSB enrolment data as of Sept. 14, elementary enrolment was up by 277 students above the Oct. 31 projections of 11,549. That included 73 junior kindergarten students over what was anticipated for the 2017-2018 school year.

As a result, the board has had to add classrooms and hire 22 additional teachers and four early childhood educators.

The number of high school students this year has also surpassed enrolment projections. Records collected on Sept. 14 show that there are 4,531 secondary students enrolled – 54 students than what was projected.

“We continue to monitor the secondary enrolment up until Oct. 31 when we do our final collection and we’ll add staff based on the enrolment at that point in time,” Lemon said.

BWDSB vice-chair Jan Johnstone, trustee for Kincardine and Huron-Kinloss, asked how classes could be added since the high schools are on a semester system. Lemon said the board will take a close look at classes and some with higher numbers may be split into two. In terms of staffing, there is the potential to recall staff in the second semester.

Three schools – Owen Sound District Secondary School, Northport Elementary School in Port Elgin and Dundalk and Procton Community School - are over capacity as a result of the increased enrolment.

“We are starting to see some growth in some areas and that is good news,” said Rob Cummings, Superintendent of Business.

There are also 36 new students with complex special education needs who have come from other boards from across the province. There is an increased need for special education funding and lemon said the BWDSB has received extension agreement special education funding for 2017-2019 for additional staff and specialized programming.