Scary numbers

The Rainy River District School Board revealed its enrolment numbers at its first meeting of the 2004-05 year last night—and the picture isn’t very pretty.
In fact, it’s downright scary.
Between the first day of school this year and last year, the board has lost 74 elementary students and a whopping 169 secondary ones. That’s almost 250 young people—over the course of just one year!
Where did they all go?
Yes, families today are having fewer children. But surely that societal trend doesn’t account for such a huge loss in students over the past 12 months. More likely, it represents an exodus of families in pursuit of careers elsewhere, or having to move because of job cutbacks here, coupled with the relative trickle of new ones coming in to replace them.
And clearly this isn’t just a case of families leaving Fort Frances to settle in places like Alberton or the unorganized areas east and north of us, such as Watten, Halkirk, and Miscampbell. The public board’s numbers, in fact, reflect a trend right across Rainy River District over the past several years.
On the bright side, the numbers fell in line with the board’s predictions, which is good for its budgetary purposes. Well, whoopee. The cold reality is that these figures provide the most graphic evidence yet of our rapidly-aging population (and all the challenges and changes that will bring down the road), as well as the fact we just are not creating the secure, high-paying jobs needed to attract new families to our area.
The writing is on the wall, or rather in the enrolment figures. The time for talk, and studies, and hand-wringing is long past. What’s desperately needed now is action—and concrete results—on the job front, if it’s not too late already.

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