Enrolment Projections and Capacity Report

At the February board meeting, the board approved making their enrollment projections public:

http://www.sd57.bc.ca/fileadmin/cao.sd57.bc.ca/FORM_AND_DOCUMENTS/School_Age_Enrolment_Forecast__2012-2016_by_School.pdf

Here is the updated DPAC report on projections and capacity:

Enrolment History and Projections – updated Feb 22 2012

The body of the report has the school district’s 2011 projections, and appendix E has the revised 2012 projections. In some areas of the district, these projections differ significantly.

The purpose of this report is not to change history, or debate historical decisions, but rather to learn from the past as we look to the future.

As a parent organization, we see future capacity issues with schools in our district, and have shown these issues in this report. There is already not enough capacity in certain elementary schools to accommodate all students who wish to attend those schools, and we see this problem becoming more common in the future in certain areas of the district.
As an example, at the start of the 2011/12 school year, one class in Prince George spent the first months of the school year meeting in a school library as there is no room for them in the school. A number of elementary schools have had their registration capped, and students have been turned away from their neighbourhood schools.

The District Parent Advisory Council would like to see an annual report on the condition of our district’s student enrolment and capacity. This report would be delivered to the school board at a public board meeting, prior to kindergarten registration and the start of the district transfer process, and also be in time to provide assistance to the budget committee when preparing the following year’s budget. The report would provide information on any caps on registration or transfers, and would also provide the board and the public with information on any problem areas.
There should be time built in for dialogue, discussion, collaboration, and consensus building to take place about options for dealing with capacity issues, and this discussion should not take place in the eleventh hour.
In this report, we have looked at the historic enrolment numbers and projected enrolment numbers, and compared them to the capacity of our schools. This is the type of visual information that can be generated and provided to Board members and the public to ensure that people understand the historical impact of declining enrolment, increases in enrolment, and school closures. This type of information could easily be included in an annual report so that trends can be clearly visualized.

Why are Enrolment Projections Important?
Projections matter.
Projections matter because enrolment projections are a factor in whether individual schools are closed or opened. They matter because they can indicate whether or not more space is needed in a particular community. They matter because they affect the attention that is paid to a particular school – if a school is projected with declining enrolment, it may get fewer upgrades than a school with rising enrolment.

Projections should be public.
Projections out to 2014 were publically given in the district closure report. The handouts given at each closure meeting had the projections for the affected schools at the top of the page. The chair of the school board has given interviews to the newspaper stating: “Our projections are status quo, we’re not seeing increases. We’re going to lose a tremendous amount of kids out of Heather Park, we’re not seeing huge issues as far as enrollment increases at Glenview and then if we move to the western part of the city and up to the College Heights area, it’s kind of the same situation.” Given that the projections are being used for planning purposes and to answer questions from parents, and also given that this is a public school district, numbers and assumptions used towards the planning should be made public.

Projections depend on assumptions.
As the projections are critical to the future of schools, so are the assumptions critical to the projections. Any projection that does not have explainable assumptions is fatally flawed. Without an outline of the assumptions behind the projection, it is unknown as to whether or not the projection depends on out-dated data, inaccurate assumptions, or assumptions made to influence a particular course of action.

Projections should be viewed cautiously.
As with any projection of the future, it is difficult to be 100% accurate except by accident. Along with this is a requirement to be cautious about which projection is considered. For example, if the question at hand is how many elementary schools should be in a particular area, looking at the trend for total student registration would be misleading.

Projections are pivotal for planning
It is essential to plan ahead for adequate accommodation of students, and to avoid unnecessary expenses.

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