The Red Deer Public School District continues to see growth each school year.
This fall the district has seen an increase in enrollment of 3% with 10,842 students attending of the district’s 22 schools. This is an increase of 331 students from the previous years, about the size of one elementary school. During the 2013/14 school year the district grew by 1.1%
This school year saw implementation of the new elementary boundaries to accommodate students at the newest school, École Barrie Wilson School with over 400 students as well as the opening of Escuela Pines School for the district’s Spanish Bilingual program with 100 students from Kindergarten to Grade 2. This changes resulted in the rightsizing of some of the other overcrowded schools in the district.
“We do a lot of work in a lot of different areas to help us try and predict enrolment and growth. It’s usually pretty accurate to what we were expecting,” said Bev Manning, chair of the Red Deer Public School board. “It’s a healthy growth. We opened École Barrie Wilson School which helped relieve some of the pressures on the south east side but that school has been subsumed into the system and we are looking at having that school full within a year or two.”
The district is also seeing increasing student numbers from Kindergarten to Grade 2.
“It does seem that Red Deer is a healthy, growing community with a lot of children. That certainly bodes well for the future,” said Manning. “It’s exciting to have an opportunity to have those little Kindergarten and pre-Kindergarten students and we look forward to serving them over the next 12 years.”
As for projecting for growth, Manning said a lot of planning goes into trying to figure out enrolment numbers each year.
“It really is like a puzzle – the picture of accommodation – because there are a lot of different variables,” she said. “But we know what our past statistics are, we work closely with the City, we work with Statistics Canada and another statistics company as well. The other thing that we do is we sit and look at the long-term picture. It’s about looking at enrolments and trends in neighbourhoods. It is a very difficult thing to do. Sometimes you can get it bang on and other times there are things that you can’t predict.
“You really do have to keep your finger on what is going on.”
Although an increase in enrolment is a positive thing, it does come with its challenges as well.
“It’s really about finding spaces in the right places,” said Manning. “It’s about keeping up with the growth on the south end of town. Now we have a new school in Inglewood and that will be opening in 2017 if everything goes correctly. But that means we’ll be reconfiguring the boundaries. I think it’s really important to work with our community on this. It’s a struggle when you have to keep rearranging the boundaries. It’s a problem – it’s kind of a good problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless. We know that it affects children and families in those areas. We want to be sensitive with that and we want to work with them.”