About 94 per cent of students returned to class in the Kamloops-Thompson school district for orientation last week, while the distance learning program saw an enrolement increase of more than 400.
Students across School District 73 were back in the classroom to go over health protocols and the new cohort learning model B.C. has implemented for the 2020-2021 school year to curb the potential spread of COVID-19.
Regular classes began Monday.
Preliminary enrolment results released by SD73 show 13,818 students, compared to about 14,645 at the end of September last year. SD73 projects Sept. 30 enrolment in 2020 to be 14,717.
Elementary enrolment was at 95.3 per cent between Grade 1 and 7 with 7,475 students compared to 7,844 enrolled last September.
Meanwhile, 94 per cent of secondary students between Grade 8 and 12 were back in class with 5,327 students compared to last September’s 5,670.
Across the board there are 827 fewer students in class than there were in September 2019 and currently nearly 900 fewer than SD73 had projected for the start of this year.
There has, however, been a sizeable bump to SD73’s distance learning enrolment and home schooling.
For the past two years the school district’s distance learning program, known as @KOOL, has had an enrolment of about 186 students. As of Sept. 11 that enrolment stands at 623 — 268 students between kindergarten and Grade 4, 178 from Grades 5 to 7, 101 in Grades 8 and 9 and 76 between Grades 10 to 12.
SD73, however, anticipates some students will move from @KOOL and home schooling back to their neighbourhood schools as the year progresses.
The school district is required to submit student enrolment data to the Ministry of Education as of Sept. 30 each year for per student funding.
Following the initial submission, there is a period of data verification by the ministry to account for duplicate enrolments. The province then issues an echo report in about the third week of October.
SD73 interim superintendent Terry Sullivan told KTW that while there could be a funding gap from reduced enrolment — given that the district receives varying levels of funding per student given the program in which they are enrolled — he is confident the Ministry of Education will accommodate a shortfall.
Sullivan directed teachers to reach out to parents ahead of orientation last week to see how many students will be in class this year, as well as seek their advice on the learning models they’d like to see.
In a memo sent out Monday, the district noted there is some confusion between homeschooling, distance learning like
@KOOL and hybrid programs, with many parents requesting something like the offerings made in June.
SD73 schools, however, are not offering hybrid programs except for some case-by-case scenarios.
The provincial government is asking districts to include Indigenous student and family contexts as part of the considerations, and aboriginal education workers may be asked to support those who qualify for hybrid supports, the memo read.