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A brighter future for school boards?
Both districts hope for higher kindergarten and elementary school enrolment

Candace Thomson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, August 30, 2013

Yellowknife's two public school districts don't know yet whether this will be the year that finally bucks the trend of falling student enrolment but they are hoping so.

NNSL photo/graphic

Total enrolment in NWT schools in past decade

  • 2011-2012: 8,509
  • 2010-2011: 8,576
  • 2009-2010: 8,551
  • 2008-2009: 8,762
  • 2007-2008: 9,048
  • 2006-2007: 9,324
  • 2005-2006: 9,572
  • 2004-2005: 9,608
  • 2003-2004: 9,727

Source: NWT Bureau of Statistics

School enrolment numbers aren't officially known until the end of September after Yellowknife Catholic Schools and Yellowknife Education District No. 1 hand in their numbers to the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE).

However, the school board officials were able to speculate on where they stood so far for the 2013/2014 school year.

"We're feeling very positive," said Claudia Parker, superintendent of Yellowknife Catholic Schools, in regards to kindergarten enrolment.

"Lots of new families are enrolling in schools. It's difficult to tell, of course, until the school year officially starts, but the numbers are pretty steady compared to previous years."

Last year, Yk1 had 157 kindergarten students; Catholic schools had 76.

Total enrolment across the NWT has been decreasing steadily over the past decade, to just over 8,500 in 2011 from more than 9,700 in 2003, as listed on the NWT Bureau of Statistics website.

Kindergarten numbers territorially, however, are on the rise.

The 2011/2012 school year had the greatest number of kindergarten students enrolled in the past decade, with 660 students. This is up from 630 in 2010/2011 and 613 in 2003/2004.

The numbers for the 2012/2013 year have not yet been released.

Parker said numbers are so high in the elementary levels that the school board is having to hold some families back from registering at St. Joseph School.

"In order to keep numbers at a certain level in each classroom, we have to wait-list some students in elementary," she said.

If spots don't free up at St. Joseph's, students will be transferred to Weledeh Catholic School or be forced to try Yk1 schools instead.

Over at Yk1, there is the same high interest in kindergarten, according to superintendent Metro Huculak. He said, however, that high school enrolment is not looking quite as good.

"We're looking at a decrease at Sir John (Franklin High School) because we have three small classes coming in," he said. "We've been building from the bottom, so after those three classes go through, our enrolment should be going up."

The statistics handed to ECE by the school boards determine the amount of funding the boards will receive from the GNWT towards their annual budgets. If federal funding is decreased, the school boards have to take other measures to cover costs.

One such method is increasing the mill rate, a portion of property tax that ratepayers can allocate to one school board or the other. Last May, the school boards attempted to increase the mill rate due to low numbers of students, but had to cancel the motion because Yk1 hadn't had enough time to alert their ratepayers of the change.

"Enrolment each year goes down a bit because people move out of the area," Huculak said. "It's unfortunate, but it's a trend across the territory."

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