By Laura Stovel
After 12 years of decline, Kindergarten registration numbers have plateaued at a total of 79 children, the same as last year, and enrollment is anticipated to rise slightly before the 2011-12 school year begins.
These are “encouraging numbers” for the Revelstoke School District, said Anne Cooper, school district superintendent. When numbers are low, educators face special challenges in providing quality education to Kindergarten and Grade One students in split classes — a situation that becomes even more challenging once full-day kindergarten begins in September.
“The curricula for kindergarten and grade one are very different,” Cooper said. “With half-time Kindergarten, teachers had time to work with grade one students” developing math and reading skills more appropriate to their level. Once full-day Kindergarten begins, they won’t have this time. It “changes the face of the K-to-one day. So Kindergarten is under scrutiny anyway.” If registration numbers had dropped further this would have added extra pressure.
Revelstoke has faced declining elementary school enrolment for more than a decade, Cooper said. In response to this decline, the school district closed Big Eddy Elementary School in 2002, the first step in a planned two-school closure involving either Mountain View or Mount Begbie Elementary School.
When Big Eddy School closed, education officials projected that elementary school numbers would fall to 125 for each remaining school. However, “our elementary population is about 200 lower than we projected then,” Cooper said. These declining numbers resulted in more split classes at the elementary level.
Concern about declining enrollment is the main reason that some parents have complained about the creation of a French primary school in Revelstoke – just as some did with the creation of the now-disbanded Christian school in 2007, said Cooper. However, she stressed that “it’s obvious that there is a (constitutional) right in Canada for French- and English-speaking children to be educated in the language of their parents,” provided numbers permit.
The leveling off, and possible increase, of Kindergarten enrollment numbers may continue, Cooper said. “For two years, back to back, we’ve had annual birth rates in the 90s, compared with rates in the mid-to-low 70s in previous years.” With the many young people who have been coming to Revelstoke in recent years to enjoy skiing and our active lifestyle, this may spell good news for our education system.