Summerland enrolment numbers show decline

While the Okanagan Skaha School District has more students than last year, Summerland’s enrolment figures tell a different story.

Students at Trout Creek Elementary School presented their winter concert

While the Okanagan Skaha School District has more students than last year, Summerland’s enrolment figures tell a different story.

“What Summerland is seeing is a loss of students,” said Linda Van Alphen, chair of the school board. “We have had a gain across the district, but there are some schools that are declining.”

According to figures from the provincial Ministry of Education, British Columbia’s school enrolment numbers grew by 5,676 students over the past year.

The Okanagan Skaha School District has 19 more students than in 2015.

In Summerland, the number of students has dropped by 18.

Statistics from the school district show Giant’s Head Elementary School and Summerland Secondary School each saw an additional eight students this school year.

At Summerland Middle School, the student population dropped by 12 students and at Trout Creek Elementary School, there were 22 fewer students than a year earlier.

This drop is roughly equivalent to one classroom. Under class size limits, a Kindergarten class has 20 or fewer students, while a Grade 1 to 3 class has no more than 24 students.

There are now 160 students at Trout Creek Elementary School, down from 182 last year and 198 the year earlier.

Summerland Middle School now has 305 students, down from 317 a year earlier.

Last year, the school district was considering school closures, including the possibility of closing a Summerland school.

Initially, the plan was to close Giant’s Head Elementary School and reconfigure the remaining three schools. Later, Trout Creek Elementary School was considered for closure.

Advocates of the school said enrolment was expected to increase, since new houses are under construction in the neighbourhood.

Mayor Peter Waterman said there is considerable construction activity in Trout Creek.

“The disturbance last year, with the question of whether the school was to be open, may have had an impact on enrolment,” he said.

He added that there is the possibility for student numbers to increase in the near future.

“Our building starts and building permits are way up,” he said.

A proposed seniors’ facility in the Banks Crescent area could also affect school enrolment numbers.

The development, with 380 units for seniors, would also bring 75 to 100 jobs, he said.

While all four Summerland public schools remain open today, Van Alphen said a discussion on the future of the community’s schools may return in the next two years if the enrolment figures continue to decline.