Influx of students brings new life, culture to P.E.I. school once slated for closure

·2 min read
John Munro, principal at Belfast Consolidated School, says staff have been excited to see enrolment grow. (Submitted by John Munro - image credit)
John Munro, principal at Belfast Consolidated School, says staff have been excited to see enrolment grow. (Submitted by John Munro - image credit)

A school that was struggling with dwindling enrolment and slated for closure four years ago is now thriving and about to welcome its largest kindergarten class in at least a decade.

Belfast Consolidated, a K-9 school in southeastern Queens County, had fewer than 100 students when it was among five schools on P.E.I. recommended for closure in 2017. It remained open, however, after opposition from the community. It currently has 132 students, with even more expected next fall.

Twenty are registered for kindergarten in September.

"It's good news for our school," said principal John Munro.

"The number of students that we've picked up with families moving in, I wouldn't have anticipated."

English public schools up 400 in 4 years

Other schools have also seen increases in the past four years as the P.E.I.'s population climbed. Overall enrolment in the 56 public English schools rose by almost 400 students to 19,543, according to stats from the Public Schools Branch. The biggest increase was at Charlottetown Rural High School, which went from 883 students to 1,053.

The six French schools added 236 for an overall enrolment of 1,099.

The biggest percentage increase in the last four years, however, was in the four private schools, which more than doubled their enrolment to 557.

At Belfast Consolidated, some of the new students come from Asia and Africa, as well as Ontario and western Canada, Munro said, and they enjoy sharing their stories.

"It adds to the life of our school and the culture of our school, to have people coming from India, South Africa and from larger cities, and how quickly these students blend in with our students," he said.

"For staff, everybody's very welcoming and excited to have new students involved."

I just feel it's like everybody's benefiting from this change at the school. — John Munro

Munro said it's also nice to see former students move back to the area with their own kids.

"Our community has a lot to offer here. We have a strong community with lots of volunteers. We have lots of recreational opportunities with the rink and the golf course, the school gymnasium for adult sports. We have playgrounds, daycare ... and our churches are strong, as well."

It's all helped build excitement and morale at the school from the days when its existence was in jeopardy.

"I just feel it's like everybody's benefiting from this change at the school," Munro said.

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