Local school divisions pleased province recognizing enrolment increases with funding announcement

Last week the province announced an additional $15.5 million in operating funding to the province's school divisions for the 2022-23 school year due to enrolment growth.

Locally the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division and Prince Albert Catholic School Division were pleased to see the funding announced.

“It is positive for the education sector of the province that the government recognizes that,” Saskatchewan Rivers education director Robert Bratvold said.

“I would just temper that with, yes, it is good, but it is also an expectation that the province provides adequate funding and stable funding for education,” he added. “It just stands to reason that if there are more students to educate that the province provides funding to educate them. Enrolment across the province has gone up and the government has responded and that's great.” Catholic director of education Lorel Trumier had a similar sentiment.

“It's great that the province did recognize the increase in students across the province, therefore the additional costs that would come with educating more students

She explained that whether the funding is direct or indirect the funding will be more stable and they will be receiving more funds.

“We will certainly welcome that because we are feeling the pressures of managing that in our current allocation,” Trumier said.

Saskatchewan's school divisions saw the largest enrolment growth for Saskatchewan schools in over 20 years with more than 189,900 students registered in provincial Kindergarten to Grade 12 school divisions, an increase of 3,840 students compared to last year.

According to the Ministry of Education in an email to the Daily Herald the distribution of this funding will be available in December when the Ministry of Education finalizes the calculation of how much funding each division will receive based on actual Sept. 30 enrolments.

Both divisions have seen enrolment changes this year.

“On September 30 just our Pre-K students alone were up by 11 or 12 students. That's just Pre-K, so the increase of students is occurring it just did not all happen by September 30,” Trumier said.

“They are monitoring those kinds of pieces and we have students that are international students that are entering our country for a multitude of reasons and we are seeing some of those students come to our school division and we are happy to have them join,” she added.

Trumier said that they are happy about the recognition of changing enrolments.

“We are looking forward to seeing how things will roll out and how we will be allocated those dollars accordingly,” she added.

Bratvold said that enrolment in Saskatchewan Rivers is slightly lower. They have seen a drop in the Debden area because of a new Big River First Nation school for example.

“We also had more enrolment to Won Ska which is our outreach school in the city here has sort of got some we know that there are some students out there who we can and have in the past served and we still have to track them down, so those are some places that dropped,” Bratvold said.

“We also had Carlton and PACI went up substantially so our high school programming is really strong, so that was good news. And a little bit of a surprise in Kinistino our enrolment dropped there a fair amount so there are some things going on in some rural areas too,” he explained.

“Overall enrolment is pretty solid it's down slightly but it's still strong enrolment in schools and up in a couple of our high schools so that's good,” he added.

Minister of Education Dustin Duncan attached the funding to economic growth.

"The province is experiencing strong economic and population growth and our government is committed to ensuring that everyone in Saskatchewan benefits from this growth," Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in a release.

"That includes ensuring the school divisions have the necessary funding to keep providing high-quality learning environments and supports to all students across the province."

A higher number of students new to Saskatchewan has increased the enrolment numbers significantly, including approximately 500 Ukrainian students enrolled through the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program.

Enrolment funding is based on preliminary school division enrolment data collected by the Ministry of Education, which will be updated in December to reflect September 30, 2022, actual enrolment numbers.

This brings the operating budget to a record investment of over $2 billion for the 2022-23 school year. Additionally, the Government of Saskatchewan also announced a one-time investment of $20 million in July to assist school divisions with inflationary pressures and $7 million to assist in the hiring of 200 additional educational assistants in March.

michael.oleksyn@paherald.sk.ca

Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald